Bend has a new innovation officer; Position meant to spur efficiency

Bend has a chief innovation officer, and she wants to help the city run more efficiently.

The city hired Stephanie Betteridge, of Gresham, in April to fill the new position. Her job is to evaluate how the city delivers services and how data and technology can help them do it better.

“My role is to work with the entire organization and to say, ‘How do we deliver services today? And how will we be doing it five years from now?’” Betteridge said.

She recently moved from Gresham, where she worked for the city for 12 years, eventually becoming its chief innovation officer. Before that, Betteridge worked for the Bureau of Land Management and the Center for Evidence-based Policy at Oregon Health & Science University.

The job in Bend was the product of a committee tasked to investigate how to improve performance in certain services, as well as look into how data and technology could be wielded to drive better policy and decision-making, said City Manager Eric King.

Based on the committee’s recommendations, King decided to create a centralized position that would work with other departments on how to update technology to provide services more efficiently and to plan for the future.

The salary for the position is $142,505.52.

King said Bend needs an innovation officer because the issues facing the city are more complex and require the cooperation of multiple departments to solve them.

“The public needs to see government being more visible and being a partner in solving these problems … homelessness, housing, mental health,” King said. “It will take many partners.”

Part of the job is breaking down silos between departments and combining data in a way that is more helpful to residents, Betteridge said.

One example of this is an interactive dashboard that was recently released that combines all road closures, construction and event closures onto one map. Normally, road closures were available through written updates.

“So we’re not, let’s say, approving a race permit on a closed road,” King said.

With Betteridge’s help, the city will be launching another new interactive map of Bend’s land inventory that will allow people to see what individual parcels are available and whether they are ready to be developed.

Over time, the city hopes to integrate more data and technology to track the city’s progress on larger issues like housing and homelessness.

Betteridge hopes having more interactive tools like this will dispel perceptions people may have about issues with data, she said.

“It’s really important for us to use data to tell our stories,” Betteridge said. “There’s a lot of assumptions. How do we use data to tell the story? Do they validate or invalidate perceptions?”

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, bvisser@bendbulletin.com