Mayor Cathy Noon and City Manager John Danielson of Centennial, Colorado, a Denver-area suburb of more than 100,000 residents that incorporated in 2001 and has gained increasing recognition in public administration circles as a leader in innovative government efficiency and privatization initiatives. Since incorporation, the city has pursued a “contract city” policy of contracting with outside providers for all public services, and in 2008, Centennial launched what has become its most recognized achievement: a large-scale, full-scope public-private partnership (PPP) with national engineering firm CH2M HILL to provide all of the city’s public works services.
In this second part of our focus on Centennial, we turn to the topic of its forward-thinking approach to driving innovation in government. Centennial is one of a growing number of cities that have created a formal senior administrative position—the chief innovation officer—within the city government with the primary responsibility of driving public sector innovation. This role typically sits apart from the traditional departments and divisions so that it can have an enterprise-wide scope and think outside the traditional organizational silos. The deployment of cutting-edge technologies and partnerships with external service providers and community organizations are often key focus areas.
Centennial’s Chief Innovation Officer David Zelenok has a unique perspective on both innovation and partnerships, and the intersections between them. As the city’s former public works director, he served as the city’s lead player in developing its award-winning public works contract—so successfully that he eliminated the need for his own position, which was abolished—before ultimately transitioning into his current role as the city’s innovation change agent.
In July 2013, Reason Foundation Director of Government Reform Leonard Gilroy interviewed Zelenok on the role of the chief innovation officer in government, the importance of sharing both risks and rewards in PPPs, emerging future opportunities in PPPs that mid-size cities can explore, and much more