We’re excited to announce Tanisha Briley as the recipient of OpenGov’s LocalGov Hero Award for August! The designation honors innovative local government leaders, and Tanisha definitely deserves this recognition.
Tanisha serves as Cleveland Heights, Ohio’s City Manager. But her devotion to public service began long before she sat at her desk in Cleveland Heights’ City Hall. Tanisha’s humble beginnings gave her several experiences that instilled a deep appreciation for public service.
Tanisha’s interest in public service endured throughout college. What began as an aspiration to volunteer on weekends blossomed into a desire to serve in government. She wanted, and found, a career centered around “making sure the community is better off than it was yesterday.”
After completing a management fellowship, Tanisha decided to become a City Manager. When Cleveland Heights posted a job opening for a new City Manager, Tanisha got the job. At Cleveland Heights, Tanisha set out to combine human, capital, and financial resources to accomplish the City Council’s goals.
It wasn’t easy.
The city faced deficits when Tanisha arrived. These fiscal issues stemmed in part from Cleveland Heights’ data limitations. Financial data was siloed in green-screen systems from the 1990s. Department directors had system licenses, but few could get the information they needed to manage their budget requests, track performance, and foster accountability. Cleveland Heights had to centralize its budget process and minimize stakeholder involvement; even the finance team barely touched the budget.
Tanisha also needed a better picture of the financial situation. She wanted to understand which functions needed more resources, which were working well, and how to shore up spending or generate more revenue. And Cleveland Heights had issues communicating this information to citizens; the city hadn’t been publishing a budget book.
Cleveland Heights needed a process change and Tanisha and her team began searching for a solution.
While at ICMA’s annual conference, Tanisha encountered OpenGov – the leader in management reporting and transparency – and wanted to sign up for the platform. Her description of what happened next illustrates her skills as a manager. Instead of micromanaging implementation, Tanisha decided to empower her capable staff to install and manage OpenGov. “Without Finance Director Tom Raguz and IT Director Jim Lambdin,” she explains, “none of this would have been possible.”
Tom and Jim worked with OpenGov’s Customer Success Team to quickly deploy and launch Cleveland Heights’ OpenGov portal. Tom continues to run the city’s OpenGov operation. Tanisha recognized the power of collaboration and took advantage of it foster innovation in her administration.
The efforts paid off.
Cleveland Heights’ first achievement with OpenGov was revamping the budget process. Tom ensured department directors got access to interactive charts and tables that depicted the city’s financials and performance. Since OpenGov understands complex government financials, department managers could pivot across revenues and expenses.
This increased accountability and ownership. Department directors could now participate in the budget process, and felt better about decisions. They had a better feel for where budget dollars were going. And after budget adoption, Tanisha and Tom could hold department managers accountable for their results. The budget process also now begins and ends with the finance team, as it should.
Cleveland Heights also improved labor negotiations using OpenGov. Since data in OpenGov reflects the city’s financial accounting structure, it’s easier for unions to trust city-provided data. Tanisha describes how referring labor councils to OpenGov built trust between the two sides during difficult negotiations.
We’re proud to call Tanisha Briley a Local Government Hero. By recognizing a serious problem, working with her team to innovate toward a solution, and collaborating with stakeholders across the government, Tanisha helped position Cleveland Heights’ government for success. We look forward to working with Tanisha, Tom, Jim, and others in Cleveland Heights to build on their progress.