Power Profile: Robert Gaskill-Clemons, City of St. Louis
There has never been an employee of the City of St. Louis quite like Robert Gaskill-Clemons. Last year he became the city’s first chief technology officer. His job could be described as one that targets improving the quality of life for all citizens and businesses in St. Louis. He does that primarily by spearheading the Smart City Initiative, an important new program in St. Louis, and one that is catching fire across the USA and around the world.
Gaskill-Clemons started his new job in March 2018. He came to the city from the state of Washington where he served as technology architect. Prior to that he served in technology positions with the American Red Cross and served for 13 years in the U.S. Navy. In his prior positions, he was responsible for leading technology initiatives related to communications, infrastructure, hardware and software engineering, as well as advanced decision support systems and technology support.
In his new post with the City of St. Louis, he describes his job as one that leads initiatives to explore how technology can be used to improve quality of life for citizens. He also works partnerships between the city and the growing technology and innovation sectors within it. He does this, he says, through several programs “to improve the quality of life for the citizens of St. Louis” by tackling issues in the areas of public safety, economic development, and infrastructure technology to support efficient and effective service delivery. Technology workforce development and education are also on his plate, “while always having an eye toward equity, digital inclusion and citizen privacy,” he says.
Technologies involving sensors monitoring cameras, traffic, weather, air quality, gunfire detection, collision detection and other public safety and quality-of-life efforts are all in his purview. “It is all aimed at public safety and making city operations more efficient and effective,” he notes.
Infrastructure growth and modernization are most important to Gaskill-Clemons, and to the City of St. Louis. It means working together not only with Ameren Missouri, but also other utilities including water, sewer, natural gas, cellular, fiber network builders, and public WiFi. This work is done through the Equitable Infrastructure Growth Program, in which Ameren Missouri plays an active and important role.
This past spring the city overwhelmingly passed the “Once Ordinance.” Policy is now being developed to support the ordinance. Instead of treating each utility “as its own vertical,” he notes, “we have broken the city up into grids to promote coordination and collaboration among all utilities.” That effort is going well, he observed.
“The goal is to make sure that underserved areas benefit the way well-served areas do,” he said. “Wherever you are in the city, you should have the same access and the same level and quality of services.”
Gaskill-Clemons said he believes Ameren Missouri’s Smart Energy Plan is working well with the Smart City Initiative.
“Improving energy infrastructure and making grid improvements is crucial,” he said. “Making energy more efficient, reducing outages and the time it takes to recover are all important to businesses and the people who are served. Ameren Missouri has been great to work with.”
He noted that the street light grid in the City of St. Louis was installed in the 1940s and was starting to fail. The Smart Energy Plan is helping to turn that around. In addition, Ameren Missouri is working with St. Louis on a pilot power conversion program and “several other initiatives that are emerging” including the Smart Street Lighting Initiative to make 220-volt power available 24 hours a day, seven days a week on power poles in the city.
“We are taking advantage of opportunities as they present themselves,” he said. “We are trying hard to stretch the dollars that it takes” to make infrastructure improvements.
In a recent interview with the Morning Blend video news magazine, Gaskill-Clemons said he is pleased with all of the developments noted above, and with his opportunity to bring change to St. Louis.
“I find this to be an amazing city. Some thought that I might meet some resistance to new ideas and new technologies, to disruption in the way we think about things,” Gaskill-Clemons said. “But the opposite has been true. I have been amazed at the reception I’ve gotten by the community and within city government.”