Chief technology officer McHenry makes strides in just a year on the job
From dealing with dead animals to buying a bus pass, Santa Rosa's new chief technology officer wants to make your life easier - with the click of a button.
Since being hired a year ago to spearhead the city's technology initiative, Eric McHenry has started moving the city toward the forefront of connectivity.
On its Web site, the city has launched more than 10 online services during the last year that enable residents to do everything from pay parking tickets to apply for city jobs.
And under the guidance of McHenry, the city is working to provide wireless connections for city employees such as firefighters and home inspectors - so they can have critical information such as housing layouts and specs while on the job.
The technology might not only speed up the permitting process for home builders, but also provide valuable information to the men and women charged with saving those homes from fire.
McHenry is hoisting the city out of the late '90s, and looking to place it squarely on the cutting edge: Santa Rosa 2.0.
"The city really wanted me to come in and get us providing these services," he said. "And I think it will change how we do business in the city."
McHenry, 48, is well versed in electronics and technology. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1980. But even before that, engineering was in his blood.
McHenry's father was the first black engineer at Boeing. Growing up in Seattle in the 1960s, McHenry was surrounded by electronic equipment, and it fascinated him.
He still remembers the day his father brought home the first calculator made by Hewlett-Packard.
"It was very impressive to me," McHenry said. "I really liked what my father did."
McHenry joined Hewlett-Packard after graduating from MIT. He initially worked as a research and development engineer in Palo Alto, fitting and soldering components together while developing analog and digital circuits.
In 1991, he left Silicon Valley and transferred to H-P's facility in Sonoma County.
As he continued his climb through the management ranks, he became a vice president in 2001 and oversaw Agilent's wireless network test division, managing about 200 employees based around the world.
"He was very connected in our world to the trends that were out there," said Bill Pike, an Agilent engineer and manager, who worked with McHenry for five years. "I was always impressed by his technical curiosity."
Two years after Hewlett-Packard spun off Agilent in 1999, McHenry decided to make a switch. After working for H-P for more than 20 years, and travelling about 100,000 miles a year on business, he wanted a stronger tie to his community.
He sometimes felt the only thing he knew of Santa Rosa was his house, his office and his kids' schools, he said.
So when his wireless division was absorbed into a larger organization at Agilent in 2001, he took an exit package and began working within the community.
He started volunteering at the United Way of Sonoma-Mendocino-Lake. He eventually joined the board and later served as chairman.
A little more than a year ago he became aware the city was looking for someone to fill a new position: chief technology officer. The new position would be in charge of a far-reaching mandate to bring Santa Rosa to the forefront of technology.