Features

Jim Dutcher – Broome County

A hometown touch helps tech during COVID-19

It may seem a small county tucked away in New York along the Pennsylvania border, but Broome County government has pretty big tech needs, says CIO Jim Dutcher.

“We have such a diverse set of customers and end users,” he says. “We need to be as nimble and as agile as any high-tech company you might name.”

In a career that’s spanned the emergence of the digital age, Dutcher has worked throughout New York in the public and private sectors, designing and implementing tech solutions in teams and on his own. And because COVID-19 has closed most county facilities, Dutcher and his staff have found ways to ensure essential services continue.

Speed is essential

Situated in south central New York, Broome County has a population of more than 190,000. County government is based in the city of Binghamton and employs about 2,000 people with an annual operating budget of $400 million.

With a staff of about 30 people, Dutcher oversees IT for all county operations from law enforcement to the Greater Binghamton Airport, municipal golf course and public transportation systems. He works with an annual budget of more than $5 million, noting he and his staff need a nimble touch to use taxpayer money wisely and effectively build tech links for county departments.

Overall, Dutcher estimates he and his staff manage almost 190 servers running more than 100 applications available over almost 7,800 nodes in local or wide area networks.

“We want to be able to spin up and provide services in as quick a fashion as startups do today. People expect it and demand it,” he says. “We have to be able to be just as accommodating. I don’t think it’s genuine or fair to move at a government or bureaucratic pace.”

Grounded storage

Dutcher says he’s very much into cloud architecture, but most of Broome County’s data and files are now stored on-premises. Some data such as videos from law enforcement body cams, has overriding regulations on how that data can be stored while still meeting public access requirements.

Still, from a fiscal standpoint, a cloud solution is less expensive, Dutcher notes, and better suited for keeping archival information and data.

The road back home

One reason Dutcher says he’s so attuned to the tech needs for Broome County and its departments is that he’s working in his hometown. A graduate of Binghamton High School, Dutcher earned a bachelor’s in computer science and mathematics from nearby Ithaca College.

His first job was as a programmer at United Engineers in Oswego, New York, west of his hometown, and he’s had other jobs in upstate New York towns around Binghamton.

While a business analyst and integrator at Cornell University, Dutcher returned to school, studying telecommunications and network management at Syracuse University. By the time he earned his master’s degree there in 1998, he’d moved on to IBM as a senior project manager and IT architect.

Dutcher also worked as a technical director for Oracle, but in 2000 his career began to move into the public sector as he became CIO at two schools in the State University of New York system and eventually was chair of its council of CIOs.

The opportunity to direct tech services at the United Health Services Hospitals Medical Center in Binghamton brought Dutcher home in 2017, and he took the position with Broome County government in 2018.

The father of five has also started several businesses, including AgZeit Farms, a year-round indoor vertical farm that supplies local grocers and restaurants with produce while also teaching planting, harvesting and business skills to local students. It’s an extensive resume and Dutcher says it all adds up to supporting Broome County government.

“Having a variety of customers to work with and a plethora of experience has helped me be nimble and agile,” Dutcher summarizes. “It’s given me that good portfolio to draw up on.”

Published on: June 17, 2020

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