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Carlsbad hires first chief innovation officer

CARLSBAD — The city has once again taken the lead.

This time, it is centered on innovation and technology with the hiring of David Graham, 40, as the city’s first-ever chief innovation officer. Additionally, he is the first CIO in San Diego County and one of the few throughout the state. His first day was Nov. 26.

Carlsbad recruited Graham away from the city of San Diego, where he served as the deputy chief operating officer for smart and sustainable communities, plus held other jobs in nearly eight years with the city.

“Carlsbad is a part of this creative coast,” Graham said of the allure of the city and new position. “It’s this incredible mix of talented people, innovative companies and the same challenges any city faces around mobility, sustainability and civic engagement. Carlsbad has a reputation of stable government.”

Scott Chadwick, Carlsbad’s city manager, said creating and hiring for the position has several benefits such as collaboration with businesses, residents and keeping a focus on new trends and technology to improve and streamline city services.

He said all aspects of the city, from traffic lights to parks, will be part of Graham’s responsibilities including coordinating and positioning the city to incorporate new and better methods for service delivery.

Examples he cited are the new Public Records Act web portal, traffic flow, handheld devices for police officers for quicker tickets and automated meter readers, to name a few.

The position was requested last year and approved by the City Council.

“The intent behind it is to look for ways the city of Carlsbad can continue to provide outstanding customer service and quality of service in better fashion,” Chadwick said. “The chief innovation officer will be looking at this from a holistic approach. David is one of the trailblazers in the smart-city realm and is known internationally for being able to deliver smart city applications effectively.”

Graham, meanwhile, said there are five priorities to improve Carlsbad. They include mobility, sustainability, government services, civic engagement and a connected economy.

He said the city sees a need to innovate by using data and technology as civic innovation is no longer a luxury, it is “imperative” for all cities. It’s much like a game of chess, a city must be looking “five steps ahead” and engage in problem solving.

As people and the world becomes more connected, Graham said an on-demand experience is the new expectation. Also, since the city is home to numerous global companies plus startups experiencing the some of the same challenges as the city, those public-private partnerships are important to cultivate and incorporate into the city’s functions.

“I’m excited to work with the talented people inside and outside the city to really make the future a reality,” Graham added. “We are in a moment of disruption where technology has changed our lives. The smartphone is only 10 years old and yet it can be your taxi service, your banking service and your connection to people around the globe. It has radically changed the way we live and exist.”

With such rapid movement and advancements in the tech sector around the world and in Southern California, he said technology has changed expectations. Government, meanwhile, must innovate to meet those demands where residents are no longer satisfied with the way operations and services are delivered.

“The cities that understand that and try to provide that Amazon-level quality of experience to their residents are those that are going to attract the talent they need to power the innovation economy and be the places where people want to live,” Graham said.