After a year without a permanent director and an international search, the Seattle IT department's next leader could hail from Ottawa, Canada.
Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan has tapped Saad Bashir, the head of Ottawa's IT department, to be the city's next chief technology officer. Bashir would get paid an annual salary of $240,000, according to the mayor's office.
Bashir has been Ottawa's chief information officer for two and a half years—and was known, Durkan said, for "streamlining" processes, increasing efficiency, and empowering talent within his department.
If confirmed by the Seattle City Council, Bashir would oversee a department with about a $250 million annual budget. The department's operating budget more than doubled when the city finished consolidating all IT functions into one office, instead of having separate IT teams in every department. It's faced a slew of IT challenges since then, including Seattle City Light's controversial "smart" electric meters that led to some massive utility bills.
The role drew more than 228 candidates, said Sherry Williams, a leader of nonprofit Technology Access Foundation and co-chair of the search committee.
"You can expect that as the new CTO, I am going to question and simplify every internal IT process, policy, structure that we have in place just for the simple reason of making sure that we are not standing in the way of business," Bashir said at a press conference Tuesday. He said he also believed the city's success "is directly tied to diversity" and social justice and feels "at home" as he tries to lead on those equity goals.
Durkan said she wanted someone with a "good balance of private and public sector experience," one who could provide innovations that would match Seattle's private sector talent and live up to the city's reputation as a tech hub.
Before working as Ottawa's chief information officer, Bashir was the city's director of economic development and innovation for six years. He also has some experience working for companies such as Citibank.
"He is a proven technology leader, and I'm excited to work with him as he takes us to the next level," Durkan said at a press conference Tuesday.