Meet Mark Headd, Philadelphia’s first Chief Data Officer

The city of Philadelphia has named its first ever Chief Data Officer.

Mark Headd will soon be one of just a handful of municipal CDOs in the country. The announcement, which stems from the Open Data Policy signed by Mayor Michael Nutter earlier this year, puts Philadelphia on the forefront of a burgeoning trend of making public data more public.

“The real benefit of having a chief data officer is, number one, you get someone who can take a holistic view across city government and be strategic about the city’s use of data,” Headd told NewsWorks.

Headd, the soon to be former director of government relations at Code for America, has long been active in the region’s civic hacking community.

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“I’m chomping at the bit, ready to go,” said Headd. “I’m really excited to switch hats from being a consumer of data to helping agencies produce data for other consumers.”

That means citizens, journalists and fellow web developers. The goal is getting data that’s tucked away in various city agencies online and to open to the public.

A big part of the job is “making sure agencies aren’t reinventing the wheel, running into the same problems,” Headd said.

The new position won’t be Headd’s first in government. He previously worked in the statehouses of both New York and Delaware before pursuing tech in the private sector.

During his time with Code for America, Headd was also involved in, an online repository for city and regional data. The site is currently administered by the non-profit Philadelphia Public Interest Information Network.

Creating, or designating, an official data portal for the city is one of the new CDO’s first tasks, says Headd. The mayor’s open data executive order also mandates the creation of an open government plan and an advisory board.

Headd is still working out a start date with the city. He says he’s eager to get going.

“Philadelphia is a huge city. And there’s a lot of data,” said Headd. “So having someone that can think strategically about that, I think, is really important.”

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