Austin’s chief innovation officer, Kerry O’Connor, made one of her first post-appointment public appearances at the Capital Factory in March 2014.
The business accelerator and co-working space popular with local technologists provided an audience eager to learn about what O’Connor planned for the city’s new Innovation Office. But answers about proposed Austin projects were scarce as O’Connor repeatedly referred to her work with the U.S. Department of State and Washington, D.C. That’s perhaps understandable — it’s difficult to forecast the future when you’re fresh to a new job and organization.
More than two years later, the Innovation Office has yet to file a progress report with the city, its headway is mostly nebulous to many outside observers, and it’s getting mixed reviews from city officials and technologists alike. Meanwhile, the office’s budget has nearly doubled as O’Connor organizes travel to cities such as London and Toronto, but not to similar innovation offices in Houston and San Antonio.
As some observers praise its work and refer to O’Connor as a “silent leader,” others said she has become largely isolated — maybe even absent — from local and state communities.