An innovation consultant goes full-time in City Hall

Name: Lena Geraghty

Title: Director of Innovation and Performance Management

City: Portland, Maine

In her previous job at the Center for Government Excellence, or GovEx, Lena Geraghty advised more than 30 cities as they ramped up their use of data and innovation tools. Now, she’s on the other side of this effort as Portland’s first-ever Innovation and Performance Management director — she started in March.

In her new role, Geraghty works with departments to boost efficiency and customer service; convenes an innovation working group to surface solutions from one department that can be replicated in another; and heads up “smart” city projects such as LED streetlight conversions and preparing for autonomous vehicles.

When it comes to these technology projects, she said, “my job is to make sure we have a common vision — that we’re not just doing one-off projects because we’re excited about a vendor, for example — and that we’re all unified around a common goal for the city.”

An early win has to do with relieving traffic congestion. Portland is experimenting with traffic signals that use artificial intelligence and traffic modeling to adjust to traffic conditions on the fly. In the first two months, one busy intersection has seen a 20-percent reduction in wait times.

Geraghty said her colleagues in city departments, from directors to frontline staff, have been very supportive of the innovation mission. “I’m very lucky,” she said. “I know how long the culture change work can take, but people here have been really ready to just dive in.”

“Be proud of incremental change. When people think about innovation, a lot of times it means disrupting your current practices. But it also can mean taking a small step toward your desired result because that’s all that’s feasible right now. We should be celebrating both types of change.”

Celebrating public sector progress and innovation in cities around the world. Run by @BloombergDotOrg’s Government Innovation program.

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