By Sue Waldburger
Carl Nelson, the chief information officer for the city of Edmonds, jokingly calls them ringers. Others, the Dream Team. Their collective expertise in technology surpasses that of many high-profile corporations’ boards. And they are working for the people of Edmonds on their own time.
“They” are the members of the Citizens Technology Advisory Committee (CTAC), the brains behind plans for a municipal fiber-optic network in Edmonds. Since 2004 these local volunteers have worked with city staff and the City Council to develop a vision of and practical plan for a broadband network to benefit city government, local businesses and residents.
With the hiring of a firm to take the next step of studying business-case scenarios for a future network, CTAC members are seeing the first fruits of their labors.
The length and depth of members’ involvement have varied over the years but a core group has gone the distance. Here’s a roundup of those volunteers and what they bring to the table:
Jenness first approached Mayor Gary Haakenson in 2002 with the notion of a city-owned telecommunications network as a way to increase revenue. In 2004, City Councilwoman Mauri Moore and fellow former journalist and technology enthusiast Bart Preecs pushed the council to create CTAC, which Jenness joined in 2005. Since then he has been volunteering and assisting city staff as a paid consultant in managing the design and build-out of the city’s fiber assets.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in business, Jenness joined IBM, where he gained a background in applied computer science and telecommunications. He worked as chief information officer of the Pacific Stock Exchange in Los Angeles and in the consulting division of Ernst &Ernst (now Ernst &Young) in Seattle before starting his own consultant firm 27 years ago.
Preecs’s interest in the impact of technology on local community news began when he was a journalism student at the University of Washington in the late ’60s. In the course of graduate work, he wrote a paper about how cable TV might be able to deliver more targeted local news than broadcast outlets that typically cover two dozen local jurisdictions.
“I got an A-plus on the paper, but 35 years later, the ability of local communities to get in-depth local news from either cable or broadcast TV is largely non-existent,” Preecs said.
Making a career move from reporting for daily newspapers to creating and analyzing Web content strategies, he said he began to see the Internet as “another vehicle for addressing the information needs of local communities like Edmonds.”
Heinz holds a degree from the University of Washington in mechanical engineering and is a former Navy officer who worked for many years for a Seattle engineering consulting firm. He held several posts at the UW prior to his 1996 retirement, including directorships of the Physical Plant Department and Engineering Services.
He served in the Naval Reserve, retiring as a captain in July 1985. Heinz sat on the board of trustees for Northwest Hospital for 18 years, mainly to assist with their capital development program.
“My engineering and administration backgrounds provide me with insights that hopefully will help advance the cause,” Heinz said of CTAC’s work.
An Atlanta, Ga., transplant, Rossi has 20 years of international experience in telecommunication networks working in companies such as Lucent Technologies, Alcatel, Microsoft and OFS. His expertise, he explained, “encompasses a deep knowledge of fiber optics systems that includes designing products and solutions for central office, outside plant and enterprise applications for customers worldwide.”
Rossi has a master’s of business administration degree, a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and is BICSI RCDD certified (a registered professional in the field of telecommunications distribution design).
“This project will put Edmonds on the international map of advanced communities that had the vision and courage to invest in a critical development infrastructure that many still overlook, a truly open broadband network,” Rossi said.
Haug retired in 2000 with 35 years of work experience in telecommunications. Half of his career was spent with what is now Qwest in Seattle and AT&T in the old Bell System before the break up of the monopoly. Later in his career, he worked for Octel, the largest voice mail company in the U.S.
“I just want to help Edmonds try to take advantage of the fiber backbone they already own and try to make use of it for both the city and the citizens,” said Haug, who also serves the community as a middle school math tutor in the Edmonds School District.
Others who have been involved with CTAC are City Council members Peggy Pritchard Olson, Mauri Moore and Ron Wambolt; city staff Dan Clements, Carl Nelson, Stephen Clifton, Duane Bowman, Cindi Cruz, Mike Bard and Tom Tomberg; and resident John Gates.