5 in 5: Gilbert Montaño, New Orleans’ Chief Administrative Officer

Results for America
3 min readNov 10, 2020

Results for America Fellowship Alumni give five answers in five minutes. This month, we caught up with Gilbert Montaño, Chief Administrative Officer for the City of New Orleans, LA.

  1. Summarize what you do and how you do it.
    I serve as the Chief Administrative Officer for the City of New Orleans, tasked with being the Mayor’s second-in-command. My primary responsibilities are to oversee the day-to-day management of City departments, to prepare and execute the City’s operating and capital budgets, and to coordinate and implement innovative solutions to reform City government — and I do this with a lot of coffee.
  2. Share something exciting that you are working on.
    I spend most of my day (and night) managing this dire situation unfolding before us: the COVID-19 pandemic. Every day, I see first-hand the seismic paradigm shift from the outbreak on local government, particularly from a financial perspective: New Orleans is uniquely vulnerable to the economic hardships on the travel and hospitality industries caused by the COVID-19 crisis. We, as city leaders, have to break down and modernize long-standing processes and legacy systems to ensure we are adequately responding to the rapidly expanding needs of our residents and businesses, while simultaneously balancing the budget. It is very challenging, but it’s also a real opportunity to rethink and innovate as well.
  3. Tell us one thing you learned from someone else during your RFA Fellowship.
    I was very impressed with the City of Baltimore’s implementation of outcome-based budgeting and especially with one project born out of it. Baltimore’s Innovation Fund empowers city employees and departments to pitch innovative ideas for one-time investments to reduce the City’s ongoing operating costs or increase revenue. It is truly a win-win result because the fund is self-sustaining, city finances are enhanced, and employees and departments are more engaged with city processes.
  4. If you could wave a magic wand and have any data or evidence, what would it be?
    As the person charged with the fiscal health of the City, I would love to have detailed, scenario-based, cost-per-service metrics for every city service. And we planted the seeds for this to become a reality through our zero-based budgeting practice, which we piloted last year and are scaling up this budget season. However, getting the level of precision possible in the private sector is a challenge in local government, and something we know will take time.
  5. What is the [pick-your-adjective] job you have ever had?
    My current job as the Chief Administrative Officer of the City of New Orleans continues to be, by far, the most unpredictable job I have ever had. In the past year alone, we have had to respond to a skyscraper collapse on our main downtown thoroughfare, a cyber-attack on City IT systems, Mardi Gras emergencies on and off the parade routes, tropical storms, and, most importantly, the COVID-19 pandemic along with its financial repercussions. These back-to-back catastrophes taught me the importance of responding to what is happening in the moment, while at the same time continuing to push forward longer-term priorities. I believe that this levelheaded approach will be critical to the recovery of cities everywhere as we all respond to the current pandemic.

Extra Question: How is New Orleans adapting its work in response to COVID-19 and urgent calls for racial equity?
The pandemic continues to be a significant financial hit for the City, just as it is for many residents and businesses who were already struggling. We are in a strenuous situation with fewer resources and a greater need than ever before. We are responding by taking an even harder look at the services we offer, how much they cost and what the return on that investment is for the public and by bringing a racial equity lens to our budgeting process as well.

Interested in learning more about New Orleans’ work? Read the January 5, 2018 case study on New Orleans’ efforts to improve public safety by integrating administrative data and emergency medical expertise.

Gilbert Montaño participated in Results for America’s Local Government Fellowship.

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Results for America

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