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IT workers are pandemic heroes, too

Commissioner Cook's Column

  • 21 January 2021
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 2029

IT architect Jim Daniels, designer and principal implementer of Office 365, worked tirelessly to meet these demands in a rapidly changing environment.

Shawna Simons, applications analyst, was essential in creating the software for Wilco Forward, a grant program funded through the approximately $93 million the county received from the Cares Act to help citizens throughout Wilco.

To meet the county’s responsibility for COVID-19 public testing, applications analyst Inky Chandler-Mertz created an online COVID-19 assessment tool to facilitate scheduling and manage results. She also created an online application form for those seeking tests that could be completed on their cell phones, allowing for a touchless process and a tracking system.

Hired just before the pandemic, Bryan Gautreaux, system support specialist, was assigned to the Williamson County and Cities Health District. Despite having no experience with public health IT support, he offered daily direct support to this organization, including at the first COVID-19 testing sites.

Tony Hill, lead warehouse coordinator managing the county records warehouse and county auction for several years, volunteered to head the stockpiling of personal protective equipment. He created new methods to manage and rotate the stockpile so items would not expire before use. All departments continue to rely on Tony and his staff to keep themselves and the citizens they serve safe.

Deputy chief information officer Alison Gleason was tasked with coordinating the support technology used by all the Justice Center’s departments. She worked with many elected officials and department heads, as well as technical staff and other departments, to implement new technology “on the fly” and adapt existing tools to fit the virtual requirements under a COVID-19 environment.

These efforts allowed the Justice Center to remain open while ensuring safety of the staff and public.

Almost overnight, IT also implemented video calling for the magistrates and courts to enable remote hearings. 

With the county’s jail operations changing daily to limit the spread of COVID-19 among inmates and staff, Shana Lincoln, Alvina Galvan and DeAnna Saucedo, who comprise the justice team, assisted the jail and courts in navigating new software and electronic processes.

The justice team ensured that the justice system continued functioning despite the pandemic, especially for court hearings that were too urgent to postpone. They developed an online grand jury selection program that limited the number of potential jurors entering county facilities, and implemented paperless courts, e-signatures and a virtual attorney portal.

It’s taken a village of skilled, creative, dedicated people to allow county business to continue providing services to both employees and the public. One day, the pandemic will be behind us, but many of these enhancements will continue to support the work of the county.

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