Features

Donnita Weeks – City of Bowling Green, KY 

Ensuring the city’s tech is up to the challenge  

Donnita Weeks, the director of information technology at the City of Bowling Green, KY, rose to the challenge and was an important figure in safeguarding the city’s technological landscape, particularly during the aftermath of the devastating tornadoes that struck the region in late 2021. Her unwavering commitment to preparedness, safety and accessibility has ensured the city’s resilience in the face of natural disasters and positioned Bowling Green on a trajectory of technological excellence. 

Donnita Weeks | Director, Information Technology | City of Bowling Green, KY 

Donnita Weeks – the credit goes to IT Manager Stephen Epley for the cable management.

As the city’s IT director for over three years, Weeks spearheads initiatives to fortify IT defenses, emphasizing redundancy and disaster recovery. The deployment of redundant WAN links and the construction of a new public safety training facility, doubling as a disaster recovery site, is a testament to the City’s foresight and dedication to ensuring uninterrupted services for the community. 

“Our IT department has to be constantly evolving to keep pace with rapidly changing technology, advanced cybersecurity threats and to meet the needs of each City department conducting essential work for our community. Our team knows the unexpected is coming and our job is to be as prepared as possible for that unbudgeted project, natural disaster or whatever else is thrown our way.     

Bowling Green is the fastest growing—and third largest—city in Kentucky, and it faced a significant challenge with the tornadoes that struck on December 11, 2021. Weeks’s proactive approach and emphasis on redundancy were instrumental in mitigating the impact.  

Dealing with disaster 

Having experienced an unexpected communication disruption when AT&T was bombed in Nashville in 2020, Weeks swiftly recognized the need for diverse carrier/vendor options to prevent service disruptions. Lessons learned from these incidents formed the foundation for the city’s disaster preparedness. 

Donnita Weeks | Director, Information Technology | City of Bowling Green, KY 

IT staff members Ben Hall, Stephen Epley and Donnita Weeks

In response to the tornadoes, Weeks and her team worked diligently to address the challenges. While the primary MDF (server room) and police station were spared, a break in the community’s main fiber optic ring necessitated quick action to maintain critical city services. The city’s redundant network paths proved invaluable, allowing essential functions to continue operating despite adversity. 

“I had only been IT Director for about three months when the tornadoes hit. I was unprepared for an event of this size but had full confidence in our amazing team, which was dedicated to helping the city recover as quickly as possible,” Weeks says. “We prioritized tasks and responded to one issue at a time until all critical services functioned. The teamwork was outstanding. This event quickly tested my skills, heightened my vigilance towards preparedness and better equipped me for my new role.” 

Post-tornado, Weeks orchestrated strategic changes to enhance the city’s IT resilience. This included splitting up and relocating active directory, email, and call manager servers to different physical locations, ensuring failover capabilities for improved redundancy. The establishment of backup WAN links at the police department and disaster recovery sites through different providers further fortified the city’s network infrastructure. 

Building a new public safety training center is a significant milestone in bolstering disaster readiness. More than just a training facility, this structure is designed to withstand natural disasters. It is equipped with a full server room, a network communication center for dispatch and an Emergency Operations Center. This facility represents a proactive disaster recovery site and a testament to Weeks’s commitment to future-proofing the city’s operations. 

Having the right tech 

The right technology enhances operational efficiency and productivity. Technology allows organizations to do more with less, from automated processes to streamlined workflows.  

“Having the proper tools can transform a department from reactive to proactive, contributing to overall efficiency,” Weeks says.  

Donnita Weeks | Director, Information Technology | City of Bowling Green, KY 

IT Department – Back Row: Kyle Bearden, Chase Ledford, Donnita Weeks, John Nguyen, April Starnes. Middle Row: Stephen Epley, Brad Stinson, Emilee Woods, Zack Powers. Front Row: Andrew LaFavers, Abdelrhman Ali, Ben Hall, Chase Shryock, Thomas Pedigo. Photo Credit: Laura Harris

In an era where cyber threats are omnipresent, having the right technology is synonymous with safeguarding sensitive data and protecting against cyberattacks. Weeks’s focus on cybersecurity reflects the understanding that technology facilitates daily operations and poses potential vulnerabilities that need robust protection measures. 

Weeks’s efforts to keep the city’s IT infrastructure aligned with the rising tech curve highlight the importance of meeting current needs and anticipating future challenges. An adaptable tech infrastructure ensures organizations can navigate changing landscapes without significant disruptions. 

A technologically equipped workplace contributes to employee satisfaction and talent retention. Weeks’s success in recruitment and retention is partly due to the city’s commitment to providing a technologically advanced, supportive work environment. This ensures that the IT department attracts and retains top talent. 

“We focus on utilizing available resources efficiently, exploring free tools from cybersecurity agencies and securing grants for essential projects, exemplifies how technology can be leveraged without straining financial resources,” she explains.  

Always about Bowling Green 

Weeks ignited her interest in technology under the guidance of early mentors while in high school. She worked part-time at the United States Postal Service Remote Encoding Center while pursuing her associate’s degree. Despite needing more municipal government experience, Weeks applied for an information technology assistant position at the City of Bowling Green. 

Donnita Weeks | Director, Information Technology | City of Bowling Green, KY 

. Donnita Weeks with her husband Sean Weeks visiting the National Parks in Utah.

Since joining the team in May 2002, Weeks has found profound purpose in her work, transitioning from a part-time to a full-time role within 16 months. The city supported her educational journey, enabling her to earn a bachelor’s degree and solidify her commitment to a lifelong career in technology. 

Weeks’s contributions extend beyond her professional success; she plays a vital role in enhancing the City’s services for its residents. Her dedication is evident in her fulfillment from knowing that her work directly benefits the community. 

Her engagement goes beyond the workplace; she actively participates in community service. Weeks teaches Sunday school at Little Muddy Cumberland Presbyterian Church and serves on the Board of Directors for CASA of South-Central Kentucky, advocating for abused or neglected children in the foster care and family court systems. 

“Each day as an IT Director is a learning experience, and I enjoy the challenge. I am blessed to work for a great organization with an incredible team. I am looking forward to this journey of progress, improvement and making a positive impact.” 

View this feature in the Spring I 2024 Edition here.

 

Published on: April 23, 2024

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