City IT is once again in the ‘Palm’ of his hand

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    Chad Palm, the City of Crookston’s first-ever Information Technology director several years ago, has returned to his former position. He participated in a Q & A-style interview with Times Managing Editor Mike Christopherson.

The general theme surrounding you being hired as the City of Crookston’s Information Technology director is that it’s a homecoming, that you’re coming back home. Can you share some of your background, i.e. your previous life in Crookston as a teacher and the City’s (I believe) first IT director many years ago, where you’ve been since then, and what brought you back?

    I am a graduate of Crookston Central High School, class of 95 and the University of Minnesota, Crookston with a degree in Information Networking Management. During school, I worked part-time for the UMC computer helpdesk and Red River Trade Corridor, where I got a great start in technology. My first job, I was hired as a non-licensed community expert technology instructor with the Crookston School District. I tought 9-12 grade classes including Microsoft Office, Audio Video Production and in the afternoons, first and second grade - introduction to computers.

    After teaching I was hired on at Becker County, in Detroit Lakes to become one of their Information Technology Technicians. In 2003, I returned to the City of Crookston to serve in the newly created position of MIS/GIS Technician and went on to serve as Crookstons first Information Technology Director.

    For the next fourteen years I worked for the city of Chaska, Minnesota as their Information Systems Manager.

    I am very excited to return to my hometown of Crookston and help lead the way forward in technology again.

The previous question mentioned the belief that you were the City of Crookston’s first IT director. What years did you have that job? In the world of information technology, with the constant advances, breakthroughs and new capabilities, it has to seem like an eternity between that time and now. What are some things you spent your days working on in those days that seem like ancient technology today? Or have things not changed as much as one might think? Members of the city council and City of Crookston leaders of late are big on better communication and increased transparency with the public/taxpayers/constituents. As a result, equipment has been purchased to soon be able to video live-stream council meetings. How can the City maximize the potential of this new medium? Have you worked in other cities/counties where meetings were live-streamed? If so, were the results/impact mostly positive? Did people watch?

    I was Information Technology Director in Crookston until August, 2006. There have been many changes in technology in the last decade and a half, but in my mind the mission of my position has not. That continues to be developing a quality, forward looking, cost effective technology infrastructure and plan for Crookston.

    In Chaska, I worked closely with our Communications Manager and staff to enhance our live streaming capabilities. This included upgrades that allowed our city officials to attend meetings remotely and to use larger city facilities for public meetings in order to observe social distancing protocol during Covid. Our meetings were live streamed and recorded for viewing on YouTube.

When your hiring was announced, it was said that you won’t stand back and wait for things, technology-wise, to happen, that you’re a “go-getter” who will pursue grant funds or technological initiatives that benefit the City operation and community as a whole. What do you see yourself doing that will fit that description? What, if anything, is the City of Crookston lacking, technology-wise, that you think it sorely needs.

    I have developed many professional contacts with managed service partners and vendors in government IT. There have been many advancements in cloud based solutions, or Software As A Service (SAAS) that I feel could be effectively leveraged here in Crookston.

What’s job/priority #1? What are you working on right now?

    Getting a sense of current technology workflow and process in the city. What is working well and where are there areas for improvement?

Your teaching background was also mentioned when your hiring was announced. It was said that your experience teaching young people will come in handy when you’re trying to help council members or other staff navigate their devices and other technology. Council Member Wayne Melbye said as much at last week’s council meeting, when he told you he’d need frequent help with his laptop. Are you a teacher at heart?

    I have always found my experience as an educator to be useful in IT. It is important to listen to the needs of the user, understand perspective, then answer questions and provide assistance in a personalized way.

When you’re not in the IT world, what do you like to do in your spare time?

    I am a licensed radio amateur, or "ham.” I enjoy talking to other hams around the world by voice, digital modes and morse code.

    I also enjoy walking, salsa dancing, fishing and watching the Vikings win on Sunday.

Please list the top three reasons that spurred you to “come home,” and explain them briefly.

    1. Making a difference in technology in my hometown. I have always felt of Crookston as my home. The opportunity to return and make a difference again here in technology was very attractive.

    2. Community. I can think of no better place to work and live than the City of Crookston.

    3. Partnership. I look forward to renewing conversations with colleagues, business partners and professional organizations in Crookston to talk about technology. 

Chad Palm is pictured in his city hall office.