Miami-Dade hires a systems strategist

Miami-Dade hires a systems strategist

Miami-Dade County recently brought its first CIO, B.R. 'Randy' Witt, on board to coordinate IT.

CIO will work to unite county leaders with a comprehensive approach to IT

By Claire E. House

GCN Staff


Alex Penelas

''Executive Mayor

Merrett Stierheim

''County Manager

B.R. 'Randy' Witt

''Chief Information Officer

Manny Garcia

''IT Department Director


Source: Miami-Dade

County IT Department

Four months ago, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. B.R. 'Randy' Witt stepped into Miami-Dade County's first chief information officer position. He reports to the county manager and is charged with coordinating information technology countywide.

Witt has seen a bit of coordinating in his day: During his final Air Force gig, he oversaw IT and telecommunications operations for all U.S. forces in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. His most recent position was director of defense information support systems with TRW Inc.'s systems integration group.

Witt holds a bachelor of arts from the Citadel and a master of arts in international relations from the University of Arkansas.

He spoke with GCN/State & Local two months into his new position.

WITT: Miami-Dade is one of the largest county governments in the United States, its jurisdiction being 2 million people in 2,000 square miles. About a third of that is Everglades National Park, but it's still a very large metropolitan area.

Just the size of the county makes information technology a challenge in many respects. For example, we have an 800-MHz radio network here that the county spent years developing with the contractor to install. It's quite a network, with seven transmitter and receiver sites and more than 17,000 users in services such as police and rescue.

The county also operates more than 29 telephone switches and private branch exchanges to provide telephone service to its more than 50 departments and 28,000 employees. So the scope is large.

The county IT Department, which Manny Garcia has led for the past 10 years, has about 500 employees and does all manner of work from telephone systems and radio systems to the mainframes in the data center, client-server networks and network administration. But that number is just half of the total number of IT professionals in the county because other agencies have strong IT staffs.

The county believes it spends about $140 million a year on IT, but it's really not quite sure. It can't define it because separate departments do not necessarily account for IT the same way.

Many agencies have developed over time to be somewhat independent. So we have different software and even different networks. We have departments that can't e-mail directly without going through the Internet. We have a county intranet, but some employees cannot access it.

For example, today I'm in the main county government center, a 29-story building with a beautiful view of Biscayne Bay. I haven't got a full view of the IT situation here, but I'm almost afraid to ask how many different networks we have here and how many fiber connections might overlap other fiber tracks just to get to a different server.

Another consideration is the 30 municipalities within the county, some of which rely on the county for all manner of services, and others such as Miami and Hialeah that are pretty much self-contained.

What's on my mind most right now is getting a comprehensive plan together'a vision, goals, objectives and strategies for the future. And that's going to take some careful coordination, of course'it has to become the vision of the county mayor, county manager and all the department heads.

Executive mayor Alex Penelas and county manager Merrett Stierheim are both very engaged in the community. They have an economic development program called One Community, One Goal, for strengthening Florida's IT work force.

Citizen friendly

They're also very interested in improving government services. We want to use the Internet to let citizens come into the Miami-Dade home page and get the services they need, whether it's to pay taxes, get building permits or complain about loose animals on the street.

We have a lot we can do to standardize the architecture to make it possible for different domains to exist. And we need to standardize data elements so we can get to data warehousing to store data more efficiently and citizens can get to it more effectively.

I've also started a CIO working group on imaging technology and electronic data management. The county has a strong ongoing imaging project in our court systems. The working group will try to quickly come up with standards and get some pilot projects in other areas going.

I'm about to start a working group on electronic commerce, as well, that will work toward supporting both online procurement and the general citizen interface to the county.

In the meantime, we have myriad little fires in the county to be put out. We're deploying an advanced purchasing and inventory control system, getting radios out to the school board and transit authority, and working to make 911 service as efficient as possible.

Aviation Department'Runs Miami International Airport and four others

Port of Miami-Dade'Is a transportation hub for cargo and cruise ship traffic

Water & Sewer Department'Services the county and many municipalities

Public Works Department'Builds and maintains transportation infrastructure

Police Department'Handles more than 2 million calls annually

Fire Rescue'Handles more than 155,000 emergency calls annually


800-MHz Trunked Radio Project'Provides frequencies throughout the county for services such as law enforcement, fire and rescue, and transit

Simultaneous Paperless Image Retrieval Information Technology'Supports imaging and electronic document management for Clerk of Court

Customer Information System'Lets Water and Sewer Department customers get billing and consumption data via the Web

Geographic Information System'Culls various land and other data for private- and public-sector use


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