Columbia expects new head of information technology to address technological difficulties

Friday, September 28, 2012 | 6:58 p.m. CDT; updated 10:53 a.m. CDT, Saturday, September 29, 2012

COLUMBIA — Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said the city faces “a lot of technological challenges” and the ability to address those challenges will be a key trait in the search to employ a new head of information technology.

St. Romaine said he wants to appoint an interim head of information technology next week to run the department until the city hires someone permanently.

Bob Simms, the city’s former head of information technology, resigned Thursday after holding the position since July 2000. Simms said he was asked to resign, but he wasn't provided with any reason.

St. Romaine declined to give a specific reason for Simms’ resignation.

“Following a discussion that I had with Bob Simms, he agreed to voluntarily resign,” St. Romaine said. “Sometimes in large or small organizations you need a change in leadership.”

St. Romaine said some of the city’s technological projects, which the new director of information technology will oversee, include revamping the record-keeping system, providing mobile software to emergency responders and facilitating information-sharing between emergency responders.

The project St. Romaine described as the city’s biggest upcoming technological challenge is the enterprise resource planning system, an overhaul of all the city’s software systems that will take place over the next two years.

The city’s information technology department most recently experienced challenges establishing a GPS system and mobile application for the city’s FastCAT buses in August.

St. Romaine said difficulties with FastCAT “didn’t necessarily contribute to the discussion” that led to Simms’ resignation. He did acknowledge FastCAT was one of the topics he discussed with Simms.

“I categorize the rollout of FastCAT a failure in one regard,” St. Romaine said. “The key part of the failure from my mind was the fact that we did not deliver what we promised, in terms of not having an application August the 13th when students came back."

St. Romaine said he did not want to “point any fingers,” but referred to the department of information technologies as “a stakeholder” in the failure.

Simms said the department stepped in after a private company, RouteShout, experienced difficulties setting up the application and software.

“We made it work,” Simms said. “The company couldn’t.”

In a press release issued Thursday announcing Simms’ resignation, St. Romaine said Simms “was able to accomplish many goals and assist in key projects during his tenure.” The statement also said the city would be working quickly to fill the vacancy left by Simms.

“Normally, this process takes three to five months, but we'll be working on a fast track,” St. Romaine said in the statement.

Supervising editor is Emilie Stigliani.

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