Everyone in Oakland who’s been involved with hacking/open government/web usability and/or Code for America  Fellows in Oakland over the past 2 years has probably dealt with the extremely competent Nicole Neditch, who worked for the City Administrator’s office in a role that eventually evolved into being the trusted go-to person for aLl things techie, aka Oakland’s tech fairy godmother.

Only, as it goes sometimes, the spell was broken, and recently Nicole left her job at the City of Oakland for a new role at Code for America as the fellowship director.

So the City of Oakland has just posted her job and you have LESS THAN ONE WEEK to apply if you are interested in being a candidate. The job description is here

and here’s what the person is said to do:


  • Assist in developing and monitoring budgets and implementing special projects and programs requiring technology, communications, and public policy expertise; these could include community engagement, web content and user experience, civic innovation initiatives, the Open Data program and customer service enhancements.
  • Administer grant programs; develop and monitor required procedures.
  • Supervise and evaluate assigned personnel in administrative, personnel, payroll or assigned program functions.
  • Provide coordination with the Department of Information Technology.
  • Develop policies and procedures for assigned projects; assist in development of short and long-term planning.
  • Assist in reviewing and preparing City Council agenda materials; prepare staff reports.
  • Prepare and analyze complex reports.
  • Assist in negotiating and administering contracts.
  • Develop and maintain record maintenance systems.
  • Direct and participate in public information projects and tools, including social media, visual storytelling and emergency public information team response.
  • Provide training on website content management system and other web-based communications or open government applications.

Basically, there’s pretty much NOTHING in the job description that asks for any understanding of civic engagement, digital media, open data, web 2.0 or anything else that made Nicole’s role special and valuable both to the City and to groups that worked with her on civic/tech projects. There are some tactics–know how to train on a CMS and use social media–but that’s not the core of what the City really needs in this role.

The short time frame–1 week?– and the lack of any specific requirements in this job description around open data/civic engagement and any sort of vision whatsoever lead me to wonder three things:

A) Does the city have someone they want to hire and this is just a pro-forma placement (which would be VERY typical of how Oakland has operated in the past)?

B) Do they even care about making sure they use this head count to have someone in City government who is knowledgeable about open data and civic engagement?

C) And do they think that it is inclusive and equitable, if they do care, to leave ALL THE INFO about this part of the role that made Nicoles’ work special out of the job description?  That means, pretty much, that only insiders would know the additional –unstated–“requirements” for the job, which is not a good hiring practice.

Oakland, you have put so so many press releases about how progressive you have gotten around civic data and leadership!

This job posting is surely a BIG STEP BACKWARD.

Please go ahead and have such a great candidate pool–and such a stellar selection process–that you prove me wrong and get someone who can continue the really good work Nicole started.

Update: Oct 31, 11:30 am: Just spoke with Karen Boyd, who is the hiring manager for this position. Karen wanted to share some important points:

She’s in a hurry to fill this role and get a candidate pool, which is why there is such a short time frame; if she doesn’t get good candidates, she will extend it (but she sent the listing to so many relevant folks, she hopes that helps with the applicant pool.)

The job is a civil service position, appointed, so the language has to be the way it is.

She’s going to write an amendment with more info about the role and share it so that OL and other groups concerned with open gov can have more data to point to for possible candidates information.

I’d also like to add that in my experience Karen has been a HUGE advocate for tech and Gov transparency projects within the city.



About The Author

Susan Mernit is editor & publisher of Oakland Local (oaklandlocal.com) a news & community hub for Oakland, CA. A former VP at AOL & Netscape, & former! Yahoo Senior Director, Mernit was consulting program manager for The Knight News Challenge, 2008-09; was a 2012 Stanford Carlos McClatchy Fellow; and is a board adviser to The Center for Health Reporting at USC, Annenberg School of Journalism. She has consulted with many non-profit organizations on strategy, product development and social media/engagement, including Salon.com, TechSoup Global, Public Radio International and the Institute for Policy Studies/Economic Hardship Reporting Project, led by Barbara Ehrenreich.

2 Responses

  1. Anca

    Nicole leaves behind some big shoes to fill. The spirit of how she worked her job, versus the dry, literal, description is highly contrasting.

    Glad to hear the comments from Karen, and I hope they find enough good candidates to get someone who is both graceful and effective in this position.

  2. Deborah Acosta

    I echo Anca’s comments about Nicole. Nicole began her role as a City employee tasked primarily with revamping the City’s web site and advancing the City’s use of social media. This was the role in which most City staff had contact with her. (I worked in Economic Development through June 2011.)

    Civic engagement, digital media, open data, web 2.0 — these were elements that Nicole brought to her work that were inspired by her passion and understanding of the critical need for the City to open up, increase transparency and thereby engage more of our residents who felt inspired to participate! It will be hard to replace Nicole — and I’m glad that Karen called you Susan. My guess is that your editorial sparked an awareness of the special skills that Nicole brought to the role that she hadn’t clearly considered.

    Like you, however, I am concerned about the short time frame for the posting of this position. The City has dragged its feet for years in hiring a permanent IT Director, and has gone through several attempts this year alone to fill this position. How are they going to find a replacement for Nicole’s unique skills in one week?


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