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City's new CPO to bring Baltimore's city innovation lab model to Cincinnati



Cincinnati's new Chief Performance Officer has had the public service “bug” since he was a kid.

Chad Kenney grew up in Pennsylvania, where his dad worked for both the local township and county. When Kenney left home to study math at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, he found that he shared his father’s passion for public service. He started tutoring local kids for the SATs and became enamored with a local school there.
 
“I was interested in Baltimore as a city with a lot of issues,” Kenney says. “I realized that education was at the center of it.”
 
Johns Hopkins had a partnership with Kenney’s school, called the Academy for College and Career Exploration, so he found himself there quite often. After he graduated, he knew he wanted to work there full time. He taught math at the school for two years through a local Teach for America program.
 
“It was incredibly challenging,” Kenney says. “I knew I couldn’t work there for a third year, but I still wanted to be involved in service of some sort.”
 
Fortunately, the Baltimore CitiStat office was hiring. Tasked with making the city faster, cheaper and better in general, Kenney found himself overseeing city functions like transportation, housing and the police force.
 
“I loved that job,” Kenney says. “To be able to learn about a variety of city operations and add my mathematical and analytical capabilities … it was a great experience.”
 
When Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black was hired in 2014 from Baltimore, where he served as Finance Director, he decided that he wanted Kenney to be a part of his plan for our city. So Black created Cincinnati’s new Office of Performance and Data Analytics and brought Kenney to town.

“(Black) has a comprehensive vision for how (performance management) should look,” Kenney says.
 
Unlike Baltimore, which already had differing, hard-to-integrate systems in place, Black and Kenney came to Cincinnati and were able to start from scratch. The Office of Performance and Data Analytics’ primary role will be to provide city residents and businesses with better customer service, faster services, cheaper services and efficient and effective city services.
 
On Kenney’s plate over the next few months is designing and building the city’s new CitiStat Innovation Lab. The lab, modeled after the one Kenney worked with in Baltimore, will provide analysts, researchers and city problem-solvers with dedicated space to confront real city problems — from trash collecting to efficient permitting services.
 
“We’re going to take different processes and get everyone in a room together and deconstruct the problem, then put it back together and streamline it,” Kenney says of the lab.
 
The space should be fully functioning by spring. For now, Kenney is spending his time creating a professional foundation with the other 18 departments and familiarizing himself with the 122 city programs already in place.

Outside of work, he and his girlfriend are enjoying their East Walnut Hills home and getting to know the city one recommendation at a time.
 
Findlay Market has become a part of our weekly routine,” he says. 
 

Read more articles by Kristen Franke.

Kristen Franke is a Cincinnati native and graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the Florida State University College of Law. When she's not editing the Innovation + Job News section for Soapbox Media, she works as a freelance technology writer.
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