From smart intersections to fail-proof infrastructure, Gilbert is preparing for the technology of the future and new deputy town manager, Laurie Buzcek, is leading the way. Laurie joined the Town of Gilbert as the new Deputy Town Manager over innovation in early January 2018. She is providing leadership to the Innovation Hub which comprises of the Office of Digital Government, Information Technology, Human Resources and the Office of Management and Budget.
Prior to coming to Gilbert, Laurie spent 17 years at Intel where she was most recently the Global Director of Customer Experience, focusing on delivering a differentiated experience for Intel’s customers and partners.
“We are a forward-thinking community,” said Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels. “We are intent on making sure that Gilbert is ready for the future and just like years ago people prepared for streets and sidewalks and streetlights, we now have to prepare for the technology innovations that are coming forward. And we need an expert in the field to guide us.”
Four months into the job, Laurie is already looking at ways to enhance innovation within the organization and community.
“For us, innovation is talking about how we continue to deliver the best life possible for our citizens, and thinking about things in new ways, new processes, new methods, new services and new technologies in order to be able to do that,” said Buzcek.
Gilbert’s open data portal launched in December 2017 and is a project that will continue to develop in the innovation hub. The open data portal and its avatar, Alex, is the first step in making the Town’s data more accessible. Town data is being added on a monthly basis allowing for staff, businesses and the community to collaborate and innovate to find ways to improve citizens’ lives.
Buzcek is currently developing an Innovation Roadmap.
Downtown Gilbert’s Heritage District lights up at night. Photo from the Town of Gilbert
Once known as the “Hay Shipping Capital of the World,” Gilbert, Arizona spans more than 72 square miles and is home to more than 235,000 residents. Its humble beginning started in its downtown, now known as the Heritage District. Gilbert’s Heritage District is the symbolic center of the community, where echoes of the Old West meet the world of modern cuisine. It has been named one of the five Best Food Neighborhoods in Metro Phoenix by the Phoenix New Times and is commonly referred to as “Delicious Downtown Gilbert.” This area’s growing popularity is years in the making, with past and present community leaders envisioning the Heritage District as a destination for people to shop, dine, work and attend school.
A parade runs through the main street of Downtown Gilbert in the 1940s. Photo from the Gilbert Historical Society
Today that vision is coming to life. If you visit the Heritage District you will see families lined on the picnic tables outside Joe’s Real BBQ and a line down the sidewalk to have breakfast or lunch at the Farmhouse. Don’t forget Liberty Market, a Gilbert staple, that’s always busy at any time of the day. Postino’s and Joy Ride, two of Upward Projects’ latest investments in Gilbert, have full and lively patios every day of the week. Oregano’s, one of the first restaurants to kick-start the revitalization of Gilbert’s downtown, is always packed. And downtown’s newest additions Zinburger, Lolo’s Chicken and Waffles and Barrio Queen Café are bustling day and night.
Joe’s Real BBQ is a mainstay of the Heritage District. Photo from the Gilbert Historical Society
And it’s about to get even busier.
Later this year, Snooze AM Eatery, a trendy breakfast and lunch establishment, will also open its doors. Pomo Pizzeria and Petersen’s Ice Cream Company will also join the various restaurants in the Heritage Marketplace development, which at total build out will encompass over 70,000 square-feet of retail space.
What was once a quiet center of a small town is now a thriving hub of one of the fastest growing and safest communities in the country. Under the iconic water tower, you will see families enjoying the splash pad, an outdoor concert or the Saturday Farmer’s Market while others are watching local theater at the Hale Centre Theatre. But, before and after, you won’t want to miss a meal at one of the downtown’s many restaurant offerings.
To add to the growth and excitement Gilbert’s first University, Saint Xavier, will open its doors this fall, just steps behind the new Heritage Marketplace off of Gilbert Road. This will bring a new energy of young, enthusiastic students; adding to the already eclectic vibe at the center of the community.
If you haven’t been to Gilbert’s Heritage District, get out and discover Gilbert.
Postino and Joy Ride, two of Upward Projects’ latest investments in Gilbert, have full and lively patios every day of the week. Photo from Town of Gilbert
When I started in this position as Gilbert’s Chief Digital Officer and first Communications Director three years ago, one of the first questions I asked was what the relationship was like with the Police and Fire departments’ Public Information Officers (PIO). That question was met with silence. Since my position hadn’t existed, there wasn’t a relationship, coordination or trust. And it was my job to build it.
During the last three years of creating a department and assembling my team, I was also very focused on building relationships with our Police and Fire communications teams. From social media strategy to shooting videos to planning emergency response roles during large events, we spent a great deal of time finding ways to coordinate our efforts.
And to do that, we had to understand each other. A police perspective, on scene, is very focused on the investigation, while the Manager’s Office perspective is committed to getting information out quickly to the Mayor, Council members and the community. And we all want to help the media to be sure they have the most current and accurate information so they can inform the public.
This week, we had an officer-involved shooting that resulted from a traffic stop. At 9:41am, I received the dispatch alert on my phone and within minutes my Public Information Officer, Jennifer Alvarez, was in touch with the Police Department Public Information Officer and they were headed to the scene. Once they were there, Jennifer would handle all of the social media coordination while Sargent Jesse Sanger, the Police PIO, could focus on getting the most recent details related to the investigation and set up a staging area for the media.
This all took place just yards away from an elementary school. Immediately, the school was coordinating with our police department and placed the campus on lockdown. We were able to share real-time updates through Twitter so that parents would know their kids were safe. Some students were texting their parents and parents were asking questions on Twitter and we could answer them.
We were also encouraging all of our employees to follow us on Twitter where we were sharing road closure information and details related to the condition of both the officer and suspect involved. We’ve made our Twitter feed available on the internal website for employees so they don’t have to sign up to see the latest information.
We manage more than 20 social media accounts for the Town so it was important that only one, consistent message was shared across all channels. We used the Gilbert Police department’s Twitter handle as the primary source for information and then Retweeted the information from all of our other accounts.
One of the other most effective forms of communication during this incident was Periscope. For those of you who don’t know what Periscope is, it’s owned by Twitter and is used to live stream video and allows you to interact with viewers while streaming. And why would that be used in local government or during an emergency situation? Because more than 10 million people have created Periscope accounts and almost two million are using the app every day. It really is the best tool to take your viewers live to a scene before the 5 o’clock news is even in pre-production. We were on the air and on the web before anyone else. We were able to answer questions live from parents who had children to pick up from school and others who were just curious and looking for more information.
It is in these major incidents, although sometimes unfortunate, that we learn what works and what doesn’t. All of the practice exercises in the world can’t truly prepare a team for what will happen when the sirens blare, the water main breaks or the streets flood. And it’s the nontraditional methods of communicating that are helping to connect us to each other and our audiences.
Yesterday, as we debriefed the incident, Police Chief Tim Dorn, praised the efforts of the teams coming together; the relationship, the coordination and the trust. And you can be a part of it.
Follow @GilbertYourTown on Twitter and Periscope and watch local government set a new standard for street journalism and reporting.
This article was written by Dana Berchman, Gilbert, Arizona’s Chief Digital Officer and Communications Director. Dana leads a digital team responsible for developing forward-thinking policies on social media, digital communications, web initiatives and other tools to better serve the public.
Gilbert is the second safest community in the country and the Gilbert Police Department wants to keep it that way. Ahead of the holiday weekend, we want to make you aware of a new community awareness program designed to address an increase of collisions in Gilbert. Our Traffic Unit and Special Enforcement Units will be conducting directed traffic enforcement operations near the SanTan Freeway corridor between Val Vista and Williams Field Roads and along the Val Vista corridor between Baseline and Elliot Roads. These two zones were selected based on an analysis of traffic collision data. Patrol officers will be increasing traffic enforcement and education within their patrol beats, throughout the community and focusing on eliminating distracted driving.
What can you do to help increase safety on our roadways? Please remove all distractions while driving, maintain the speed limit, wear passenger restraints and obey all traffic laws. We also encourage you to help spread the word about safe driving with Gilbert’s new #DriveSafely campaign. Here are a few ways you can help:
Arizona’s cities and towns are successful because of the wonderful people who work to make them so great. The Town of Gilbert is no exception.
Jack Young is the longest-standing employee in the history of the Town of Gilbert. He recently retired after serving the community for more than 39 years. In his time with the town, he served as a police officer, code compliance inspector, building inspector and the wastewater quality inspector.
Jack started with the Gilbert Police Department in 1976 as an officer, which he says to this day was his favorite assignment. He worked his way up the ranks and eventually became a commander in 1998. Jack was even named as the Acting Police Chief for six months in-between a retiring and new police chief.
After 25 years with the Gilbert Police Department, Jack retired and quickly transitioned into his new role as Gilbert’s Code Compliance Inspector; a position he held for three years. He later transitioned to work as a Building Inspector and after four years ventured on to Gilbert’s Public Works Department as the Wastewater Quality Inspector.
Jack is a prime example of Gilbert’s Vision to provide “Best in Class” service. He has won several awards during his time at the town including Police Officer of the Year (1977), Town Employee of the Year (1998), and the Town’s Pioneer Award for his work on Gilbert’s first Continuous Quality Improvements (CQI) Steering Committee.
Jack is one of many individuals who help Arizona cities & towns work each and every day. Congratulations, Jack!
By Haley Paul, Gilbert Water Conservation Specialist
During the month of September, with all those rains, you took notice! Our water production data indicates that Gilbert residents and businesses did an amazing job of responding to the rainfall by reducing outdoor water use.
It’s rare in the world of water conservation to see drastic decreases in water use in a short amount of time. We’ve seen a steady decrease in household water use over the years, with the implementation of new indoor technology such as water efficient toilets, showerheads, and clothes washers. However, to see real-time water conservation responses is a rare treat indeed.
After the September 7th and 8th flooding rain event, you responded by reducing your total water consumption by 20 million gallons… a day. You kept those controllers off too, and the savings persisted for about a week.
Then, with all the predictions that Hurricane Odile was going to drop another whopper on us, you anticipated the rain and proactively shut your controllers off. Production dropped from an average of 42 million gallons a day the few days preceding the storm, to an average of 37 million gallons a day—a savings of about 5 million gallons of water a day. Even though that storm didn’t deliver the anticipated rainfall, a lot of you figured you could keep those controllers off given the cloudiness and moisture that remained in your soil from the previous storm.
The final story in this water production data picture is that when it rained again on September 27th, you overwhelmingly responded. Water production dropped even lower, from an average of 43 million gallons a day preceding that rain event to an average of 35 million gallons per day. Another bulk water savings, this time of 8 million gallons of water a day.
In total, all that amounts to a cumulative water savings of 239,052,000 gallons for the month of September, or an 18 percent drop in water demand from last September.
This is a testament to your keen eye on conservation. You care. It matters. We can continue to improve on this trend by doing things such as adjusting our controllers monthly, checking for leaks inside and outside the home, and paying attention tohow much water we should be putting out on the landscape.
All of your individual actions add up to collective water savings.
The majority of water use is outdoors. That’s why we focus on it so much here in the monthly blogs. If you are bamboozled by your watering system, give us a call (480-503-6098) or email and we can set up a time to go through your system with you and offer you tips for savings.
If you ever want to see how much rain fell near your house, visit rainlog.org. If 0.5 or more inches of rain fell near you, that’s your cue to turn off the controller. When you can no longer easily stick a long screwdriver 8 inches into the soil, that’s when you will want to turn your controller back on.
Thanks for helping to do your part to save water here in Gilbert!
Report identifies key performance metrics; promotes transparency and opportunities for increased efficiency
The town of Gilbert is pleased to present its first benchmark report, which is available online at http://www.gilbertaz.gov/home/showdocument?id=2862. Created as a component of the town’s performance management strategy, the report includes 83 measures across 17 departments, utilizing a total of 33 benchmarks in 15 states. Ten Arizona communities are listed as benchmarks.
Navigating the Report Page 11 provides a map of the benchmark communities in each state; pages 12-15 include a matrix of the benchmarks and departments, as well as some high-level comparative data, such as median home value and per capita income. Department benchmarks begin on page 17.
Benchmark Uses and Benefit to Citizens Benchmarks provide greater context to municipal operations and are a valuable tool in gauging performance. They allow a city or town to look outside its four walls to examine how it compares to other municipalities of similar size and function. Similarly, benchmarks offer citizens perspective on the various services their city or town provides. For example:How many acres of developed parks are in each community? What are average response times for fire and emergency services? How do local sales tax rates compare? What would an average monthly water bill cost?
These measures and many more are included in the report.
For the town of Gilbert, benchmarks were also designed to identify not only where the town is excelling, but also where the organization might look to incorporate demonstrated successes and process improvements that other organizations have explored.
As other cities and towns explore similar efforts, each will be able to share data and compare operations – all with the ultimate goal of determining the services and offerings that are best fit for each community. To that end, the town of Gilbert is a member of the Valley Benchmarking Cities group through the Alliance for Innovation and ASU, a group comprised of several Phoenix metropolitan area cities that meet monthly to share and discuss performance metric data. The member cities have been a tremendous help in sharing data and providing feedback on the Gilbert report. The town looks forward to continuing its work with this group.
Through these and other efforts, the town of Gilbert’s performance management strategy drives the organization to continually seek new opportunities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of services.
The Town of Gilbert’s Development Services Department’s One Stop Shop is making services more accessible and convenient for residents and businesses. Since its opening in March, 49% of permits submitted for review were handled over-the-counter with the new programs, saving both time and money for businesses and residents.