Features

Tony Gonzalez – City of New Braunfels, TX

Fiber rings to park carousels: technology upgrades for a growing city

Six months after joining the City of New Braunfels, Texas, in 2018 as its director of information technology, Tony Gonzalez was brought into a meeting where an idea was presented to replace the city’s enterprise resource planning system.

Understanding this project was going to have a price tag of $1.5 million to $2 million, Gonzalez wanted first to understand why his teammates wanted to replace the software. After working closely with the finance and human resources departments to compile their list of functional issues with the software, the IT team took a long look at it and held discussions with the software vendor. To the shock of many on the team, it was discovered most of these issues were a result of the software being outdated by six major releases.

“We didn’t need to take the huge leap of replacing this software without bringing it up to date and taking the time to re-evaluate the updated software,” Gonzalez says.

Tony Gonzalez | Director of Information Technology | City of New Braunfels, TX

Tony Gonzalez | Director of Information Technology | City of New Braunfels, TX

So, he and his team spent the next six months updating the system. He then asked everyone to use the upgraded software for at least a year and a half. If they still felt it needed to be changed, he’d do it.

With timely updates installed, the IT team being more engaged with their customers and keeping an eye on the system and soliciting feedback, the city’s team was able to postpone the major investment of replacing the system for three more years.

In late 2022, however, the city team decided it was time for a new system altogether. The team spent more than six months documenting functional requirements and mapping out internal processes. They sent out proposal requests and plan on choosing a new vendor and system by mid-October. Once the new vendor is in place, the team will take on the year-long process of replacing the entire system.

“To get to this point was a huge team effort,” Gonzalez says. “It has allowed HR, finance and IT to reestablish our working relationship that is going to fundamentally change the way we partner on using, managing and supporting this new ERP system.”

Bookshelves to police computers

New Braunfels is located in the southern part of Texas, just outside San Antonio. In 2019, voters approved $143 million in bonds to, amongst other projects, build a new police station, renovate and rebuild two fire stations and construct a new Westside Library Branch.

To support this work, Gonzalez and his team have been extending the city’s fiber ring, which, in turn, has exponentially increased the fiber network. In short, this means the city and its buildings have a redundant, high speed and reliable connection, so students can always do their homework at the library, and detectives can always pull up the traffic patterns and criminal data they need.

The work on the police and fire stations is complete, and all three buildings have been open for approximately a year. The Westside Library Branch opened in September.

Tony Gonzalez | Director of Information Technology | City of New Braunfels, TX

“The best part isn’t just how this will increase connectivity and access to data but also that we were able to come in under budget on the fiber construction,” Gonzalez says.

In May 2023, city residents approved $140 million in municipal bonds to accommodate the city’s rapid population growth from 58,000 in 2010 to over 101,000 in 2021. The funds are designated for a new Southeast Library branch, major transportation improvements and Phase 2 of Mission Hill Park. Gonzalez and his team plan on taking lessons learned from the Westside Library project and applying them to the larger Southeast Library facility.

“We’re very excited about this funding and have already started planning on how to apply the funds and finish projects as quickly as possible so residents and visitors can enjoy and utilize the upgrades,” Gonzalez says.

An unexpected but perfect move

For Gonzalez and his IT team, their customers aren’t just the city residents but also the city’s various departments. That’s why he says customer service is essential to what they do.

“One of the best ways to adapt to a changing industry and constantly evolving organizational needs is to develop strong internal relationships, especially since the majority of our clients are internal,” says Gonzalez, adding he never wants to say ‘no’ but, in case he must, he likes providing explanations and reasonable alternative solutions.

He also likes keeping an open mind to explore a variety of solutions. That openness is, in fact, what landed him in New Braunfels.

Nearly three decades ago, he and his wife lived in New Braunfels for several years after getting married. They eventually moved to Forney, Texas, where they stayed for 14 years, raising their three children, Jacob, Jarod and Caroline. In October 2015, he became the city’s first information technology director. By 2018, however, all the children were out of the home, giving the couple a chance to move if they wanted.

Tony Gonzalez | Director of Information Technology | City of New Braunfels, TX

“We were quite rooted in Forney, but when I saw this job come up (in New Braunfels), I applied because my wife and I liked the idea of returning to a great town where our life together began,” Gonzalez says.

He drove nearly four hours for the interview and quickly realized he wanted the position. The city team and the city manager’s office felt the same way.

Despite his professional career starting in 1997 and spanning across several cities, firms and even companies like Microsoft, he’s never stayed in a role for over four years—until New Braunfels, where he’ll celebrate five years in October 2023. The one exception is his side-work as an on-air talent for Sportsgram in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Since 2005, he’s been presenting on-air color commentary and play-by-plays for various high schools, junior colleges and other athletic competitions across various sports.

As for his work at the City of New Braunfels, he loves the collaborative atmosphere.

“I want to credit my amazing team; I couldn’t have accomplished any of this without them, and not only are they making me look great, but together, we’re creating amazing programs and integrating the latest in technology for the city and its residents,” Gonzalez says.

View this feature in the Fall I 2023 Edition here.

Published on: September 13, 2023

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