Campaigning for tech

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Name: Steve Meisburg

Title: Tallahassee, Fla., Mayor Pro-Tem.

Served: Elected to the Tallahassee City Commission for the first time in 1987 and has served since then.

Accomplished: Integral in such Tallahassee technology efforts as the ongoing project to integrate the city's computer systems, the automation of traffic signals, building a neighborhood technology center and Learnitnow.net, an online training hub for city employees now being marketed to cities worldwide.

Notable: Won one of Public Technology Inc.'s 2001 Technology Leadership Awards.

Links: His page on the city's site is talgov.com/citytlh/city_commission/meisburg.html. His personal site is www.meisburg.com.You might not know: He's a musician, a self-described "cross between Frank Sinatra and Kenny Rogers."

What got you interested in technology?

When I first ran for election in 1987, I ran on the issue that when I won the election, the city could take over the cable [TV] company. The quality was so bad, people just responded unbelievably the election was all over.... Education was what I was really interested in there's so much you can do with cable other than entertainment.

In your opinion, what technology has really made a difference for Tallahassee?

Integration of our technology systems. It's the most important thing we've done it will revolutionize the way we do business.... When I made the presentation for this, I told [the commissioners that] city employees can do their jobs much more easily and make decisions for themselves. It was a $20 million project but it was a one-hour discussion, and they all supported it. I was amazed that they accepted it. We've had $1,000 projects for hubcaps where we've argued all night.

What do you think about e-government?

That's the wave of the future. We're trying every way we can to interact with the public. We want to give businesses and citizens a reason not to come to City Hall. Saving the city money, that's the whole purpose of this. Convenience is fine, but if all this costs the city more, we wouldn't do it. All of this stuff we do is about making us do more with less.

But what about projects without a tangible return the things you're doing to give neighborhoods technology access?

I can't tell you how important that is. But that has business [opportunities], too. We're giving the neighborhoods opportunities for education and growth, teaching them things like how to start a business and how to balance a checkbook. That's just gold in educational value.

What do your constituents think about e-government?

I don't think the citizens actually know what we've been doing they don't think about it that much. And they don't ask for more online services, because they don't even know what's possible. But with online payments they like everything they can do from the home.

How do you see it changing Tallahassee in the future?

My No. 1 goal is not to have to build a City Hall annex, a $20 million proj.ect. And that means keeping people from City Hall. Let's prevent that by giving people access to information. And people are going online. I get e-mails every day from citizens that I never got letters or phone calls from four years ago.

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