Pasadena’s Chief Information Officer, Key to the Technology that Runs the City, Singled Out in National Survey

Phillip Leclair awarded ‘Leader of the Year’

Published : Friday, October 4, 2019 | 4:54 AM

Phillip Leclair, chief information officer for the City of Pasadena, has been named Local IT Leader of the Year in a national survey by a Washington, D.C.-based tech media company and tech trade publisher.

And while the honor may have been a surprise to Leclair, many people throughout the community said they feel the win is well-deserved.

“Since I’ve known Phillip, he has always gone above and beyond,” said Beth Kuchar, president of Innovate Pasadena. “He’s the person working hard behind-the-scenes to keep Pasadena’s technology on the cutting edge. Not only that, he has been an avid supporter and advocate of Innovate Pasadena.”

Leclair holds a position that is critical to the functioning of the City of Pasadena. As Chief Information Officer, he is responsible for overseeing a department of 80 people who keep the technology running that powers the City.

“I thank anyone and everyone who voted for me and the deserving nominees,” Leclair said. “It is an honor to be recognized, and better to win. I am fortunate to have the support of the City Manager and City Council who are all excited about technology innovations for the City of Pasadena.”

Leclair Leclair joined the City of Pasadena in 2008 and in his role as CIO he is responsible for leading the City’s technology strategy and managing overall IT operations and customer service.

He knows the timing is right, as his job in the role of CIO only developed into a “real” and viable position among business ranks about 20 years ago.

“They’ve had managers or directors of technology organizations previously, but the CIO title became something that was more used in corporate America,” he said. “That elevated the level of just being a director of a department to looking at strategy across a whole organization. It’s going beyond older technology like telephone and mainframe computer. Now, every area of a city runs on technology.

What is a typical day like for a city’s CIO?

“We have lots of meetings because we have lots of projects and initiatives that support customer departments who are on the front lines of service delivery to the public,” Leclair said. “That includes different websites, online applications, mobile services and lots of other applications the City runs. So we have brainstorming on what solutions to problems or ideas that come that are more innovative and how we can adopt those practices internally. Those are my favorite parts of the day and the most interesting.”

While there is a continual growth in the use of technology, the City of Pasadena hasn’t necessarily grown in the number of its employees, Leclair said.

“It hasn’t grown very much in terms of people, but the roles have changed over the years,” he said. “People have moved from operating something to becoming more of a solutions consultant. Tools available in the Cloud or applications we develop, we try to move people to solutions consultants and project managers and business analysts.”

For the non-techie among the population as well as those in the industry, there has been an overwhelming learning curve as people have adapted to interactivity with devices. But for those who work with emerging technologies, it’s just another day at the office.

“What makes IT professionals unique is we are the forefront of change,” Leclair said. “Every day something is changing. Every day we have to adopt something new, there’s a new concept, a new technology, a new application out there and our job is to figure out how to adopt those and help all the other staff within the City adopt and change. We ourselves are constantly learning. We want to be problem-solvers and change agents.

How challenging has it been to convince people to use a new technology?

“I think it’s changed over the years,” he said. “Today it’s much easier for people to recognize they need something different. Trying to get it funded is different. But for people to see they need something different, it’s way easier today, because of the way we all interact with friends or family and businesses we like to work with. They all have technology. People want to engage using those tools. People don’t want to come to the City, they want to go online, to interact with the City, to pay their bills, for example. Today, everyone has a smart phone in hand and it’s completely different.”

In Leclair’s position he oversees a department that works with internal people and technology that help customers outside the City complete interactions and transactions.

“We do both,” Leclair said. “All of our efforts are to deliver a service, for instance obtaining building permits in the City, that’s the planning department, but plans that enhance those applications are led by us. We have lots of examples where we are driving applications that our customer departments are using to interact with the public.

He believes having the support of the city personnel has been vital to his success. He believes someone attended a tech function in San Diego and possibly nominated him and his department for the award based on his presentation.

“The city has become recognized because of a lot of the investments in technology and delivering of solutions,” he said. “We’re starting to get recognized by a number of organizations and other cities for what we’re doing. We were presenters in July at a very big conference in San Diego, describing how the City of Pasadena is innovative and uses technology to meet the growing demands of using technology. We got a lot of social media press around that and praise for that. I think for that reason that somebody nominated me for leading an organization that’s delivering something that’s exceptional.”

He said he’ proud of a range of projects.

“I’m most proud about how we approach technology by the department heads, our city manager and city council,” he said. “Support from them has allowed me to be successful to allow me to empower people so we can be our best. We work with our customer departments and the successes we have on the front line, their success makes us all successful. I could not have earned this recognition without numerous, dedicated IT staff delivering services to the public.”

Leclair does make the most of his limited downtime.

“I love travel, so I’m always thinking about my next adventure,” he said. “I like to plan where I’m going next. I use a variety of different apps and resources, but every once in a while there are fantastic professionals who have key advice so I’ll reach out to travel agents for pieces of my journey. Half of my enjoyment is the planning.

Does Leclair have any advice for people who use technology for their personal or small business reasons?

“First, I would advise they ask around as many people as they can to learn more about what’s possible and how to achieve it,” he said. “One way is to look at examples of what other people are doing and how they did it, so don’t reinvent the wheel.

“The second is that there are a lot of things you don’t need to do on your own any more,” he said. “There are so many apps, providers, hosted applications and services and if you’re a small entrepreneur you should be able to find something very inexpensive and easy to get started and adjust and change as you grow. Whatever you’re starting with now is not what it will look like in a few years. And don’t spend too much time worrying about the technology because it’s only one piece of the business.”

Prior to joining the City of Pasadena, Phillip was an IT consultant with a Los Angeles based IT Management and Strategy consulting firm responsible for IT strategic planning, project management services and web development practices. In a prior role, Phillip worked for the New York City Department of Finance providing internal IT consulting services and managing multiple system implementation initiatives focused on property valuation, taxation and payment systems.

Phillip holds a BA degree in Economics from the University of California Berkeley and a MBA from New York University Stern School of Business.