Most people may know me through my role as a County Commissioner here in Leon County, but what you may not know is that I am also a small business owner and entrepreneur who has been focused on municipal innovation.
My professional career has included positions at both the Florida League of Cities and the National League of Cities where I served as an advocate for municipalities. That experience in municipal government led me to create my company, JDA Strategies. I’m proud to have worked with clients like the Florida League of Cities to educate municipal leaders around the state on how to best build models of governance that are focused on the future. In recent years, that work has led me to concentrate on civic innovation.
As a candidate for Mayor, I am proposing that the City of Tallahassee create a new Office of Civic Innovation. This new office will be on the cutting edge of innovation and will become a place where bold ideas are championed throughout city government.
Tallahassee would not be alone in this effort as many cities have created such offices to search out ways local government can be more efficient, environmentally friendly, creative, and nimble in how they respond to rapidly changing technologies. I believe such an office can not only advance the interests of the community, but also save taxpayers money.
One of the programs I am most proud of from my work with Florida’s cities is called MuniMod. MuniMod stands for “Municipal Modernization in the 21st Century” and the program brings many of the best and brightest minds from Florida’s public and private universities together to pitch innovative ideas for how cities can work better. I started the program in Tallahassee with students from Florida A&M University, Florida State University, and Tallahassee Community College. Today we are engaged with twelve public and private universities in Florida. In a similar fashion to the MuniMod system, I believe a new Office of Civic Innovation at City Hall will provide an added opportunity to host interns from our local universities as a way to further its work and engage our top talent.
You may be wondering what kind of ideas could emerge from such an office. There are examples all over the country. In Portland, Oregon the city is exploring the placement of turbines in storm water pipes as a way to add energy back to the grid. In Atlanta, partnerships have been forged with entrepreneurs like FSU alum and founder of Spanx, Sarah Blakely, to create a civic entrepreneur residency for women who have bold ideas for bettering the city. This trend has even reached major international cities like London, England where the city has turned to citizens for ideas on how to use technology to tackle issues like aging, climate change, and inequality.
Tallahassee can follow the lead of these cities while also blazing our own trail forward.
It is true that “Talent Lives Here;” I want to make sure that we capitalize on that talent. With a new Office of Civic Innovation our city can tap the minds of residents, students, taxpayers, and entrepreneurs to discover the boldest of ideas that can change our trajectory for the better.