Darrouzet: Dallas IT Director Needs Private Sector Expertise

Louis Darrouzet
MCBA CEO Louis Darrouzet | Image by Louis Darrouzet

The head of the Metropolitan Civic & Business Association has some advice for Dallas officials on how they should replace the City’s chief information officer.

“I think what’s critical is that they find someone from the outside,” MCBA CEO Louis Darrouzet told The Dallas Express. “It should be someone from the private industry — not in government — who works for, say, a large multinational company, who has run an IT department at that scale. The more they hire from the same bureaucracy, you just get more of the same.”

MCBA is a non-partisan, non-profit business organization created to “increase charitable and civic engagement among companies and their employees by connecting local businesses with great charities.”

Having been CIO since 2020, Bill Zielinski left the City of Dallas last week to join the private sector, according to the Dallas Business Journal. His government work has included positions with the federal General Services Administration, the U.S. Social Security Administration, the Executive Office of the President, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

In Dallas, Zielinski was responsible for “creating greater digital equity for a population of more than 1.3 million people.” He told The Dallas Morning News his resignation was unrelated to City Manager T.C. Broadnax’s departure.

“I had this great opportunity that came my way that, at the end of the day, given where I am in my career and where I am in my life, was just a great match,” Zielinski told the newspaper. “And, so, I said yes. And, so, I’ll take several weeks off, and then I will start a new gig in private industry.”

Zielinski oversaw the recovery of Dallas’ IT system after 20 terabytes of Dallas police data in 2021 was lost, and a ransomware attack in 2023 compromised the personal data of more than 30,000 people.

“Obviously, you don’t want to be attacked,” Zielinski told DMN. “But in terms of our preparation and our planning and our response to that, I’m very proud of the team here for the work that they did.”

“Bill inherited a challenging department with historic underinvestment and has made substantial improvements in modernizing IT hardware, software, staff training and IT governance,” Council Member Cara Mendelsohn (District 12) told DMN. “He’s learned much about how the city works and tried to improve overall processes.”

The budget for Dallas’ IT department is about $132 million. With about 14,600 employees, the City’s overall budget is $4.6 billion. The pay range for CIO is $168,658 to $252,987.

“It’s a Fortune 100 company in size,” Darrouzet said. “The chief information officer needs to be someone from the private industry. For example, the U.S. government doesn’t build fighter jets, right? The private industry does. From that perspective, what’s most important is [for Dallas officials to] find someone who is leading in the industry at a large organization who can take charge and knows what to do.”

It’s an approach the City should take in other departments as well, according to Darrouzet.

“One of the things the City gets a lot of flack for is inefficiency with the dollars spent. When you feel like you have a blank check, you don’t have to be efficient. That’s why we’ve had the problems we’ve faced with the federal government with debt. Local government is doing the same thing. There are no repercussions. In the private industry, people are always held to a budget and certain standards and processes,” he said.

In August, the Dallas City Council allocated nearly $9 million for tech vendors and consultants in response to the ransomware attack. Last year, it approved upgrades intended to improve the City’s cyber defense, according to DMN. Meanwhile, Proposition I in the Dallas bond election would provide $5 million for tech upgrades, including the building of a data center.

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