Lifeguard tower with new solar panels for free wi-fi on the beach.

The IT Department: Providing Information & Technology Services in Sunny Isles Beach

By: Christopher J. Russo, Former City Manager

(Friday, January 26, 2018) One of the least acknowledged, but quite important, departments in the City of Sunny Isles Beach is the Information Technology Department. Leading the IT Department is Chief Information Officer, Derrick Arias, who boasts more than 25 years of experience in this industry, starting with IBM and later founding his own web services company in California. In 2003, Derrick returned to his native Miami and joined us in Sunny Isles Beach. This was just in time to help plan and assemble our systems in the newly constructed Government Center, while also developing a citywide Wi-Fi service. His vast knowledge, experience and leadership are the main drivers moving the City into the 21st-century digital era.

Derrick carefully assembled a very talented team and developed a strategic plan with a collective mission: to provide excellent information and technology services designed to increase both employee productivity and the comfort and security for our residents and visitors.

When Mayor Scholl entered office, he challenged the department to bring our City into the municipal forefront from a technological standpoint. After many discussions among the Mayor, department members and myself, we arrived at seven innovative projects. The past two years have seen the completion of several of the Mayor’s technology initiatives.

The first project was the deployment of Soofa smart benches. I am proud to say Sunny Isles Beach was the first city in Florida to install these benches. They feature solar-powered charging stations for mobile electronic devices. There are currently 10 benches located across our active City parks.

The second completed project was the implementation of the SIBshuttle mobile application. This app can locate both you and the nearest SIBshuttle. It allows for real-time tracking of the City’s shuttle buses, finding the estimated time of arrival to any shuttle bus stop, and route information. This information is available through a mobile application, a telephone number, or using a web browser.

Recently, the City launched PayByPhone parking and is expanding free Wi-Fi coverage to include the whole beach. Additionally, the City Commission approved the installation of informational touchscreen kiosks that will be located at Samson Oceanfront Park and Gateway Park. These kiosks will provide an interactive map of the City, details about current and upcoming events, SIBshuttle services, and much more. Another recently completed project was the installation of a 20-seat computer training facility at Marian Towers for our residents.

Acknowledgement of the amazing ways in which this Department has enhanced our City would not be complete without mentioning a little about Derrick’s team. Humberto Martinez, Assistant CIO, has been with the department for over six years. His expertise in research and implementation of cost and time-saving programs display an essential role as the department is always seeking to stay ahead of the ever-growing technology field. Ely Greenspan and Marco Sanchez joined us in 2015 as IT Analysts, both having worked at the City of Miami. Cheryl Williams joined the IT Department in the Business Intelligence implementation while administratively assisting other departments as needed. Yaroslav Lavitskas has been working for the City since November 2015 as an IT Analyst and represents the future generation of IT professionals.

Needless to say, I am very proud to have this extremely talented and hard-working group in my professional administration.