At OpenCounter, we don’t aim to make great products — we aim to make great products that make the lives of City Hall staff easier, day in and day out.
And we’re able to do exactly that thanks to the deep experience and insights of the public sector experts on our Government Services team. They know first-hand how complex zoning and permitting are — and the headaches and inefficiencies they’re causing you and your colleagues.
Matt Gilster, senior project manager on our team, knows those headaches all too well. That’s because he spent nearly five years working permitting counters as a planner across northern California, first in Mendocino County before heading to the City of Novato and Sonoma County. In that time, he administered every type of planning permit imaginable.
But that wasn’t all he did — not by a long shot.
Putting Public Sector Experience to Work
“Besides working with people every day to help them understand land use, zoning, and every type of development, I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to work on some really important projects,” Matt said.
“While in Novato, I had the chance to manage a slew of technology and web development projects. One of those just happened to be their implementation of OpenCounter! Each of those projects brought us one large step closer to making permitting and licensing easier for the public to understand and providing real transparency around the city’s public projects to their 56,000 residents.
“And with Sonoma County, I managed the collection, analysis, and organization of seven years’ worth of traffic-related land use data from the county’s permitting software. Collecting and learning from that data — representing more than 1,000 projects — really increased the accuracy and effectiveness of the county’s traffic model. Plus, it helped us determine what digital infrastructure we needed in place to capture and track future data in a hyper-efficient way.”
Exploring the Crossroads of Tech and Public Service
The fact that such complex digital projects are woven throughout Matt’s career is no accident. He’s been interested in all things tech since childhood, and it runs in the family.
“My dad is an electrical engineer, so computers and technology were major interests in our house growing up. I first started learning front-end web development coding as a hobby. I was hooked quickly, so I started building my own websites. Before long, web development turned into a great side gig. I even pursued a certificate in web fundamentals and computer science at Santa Rosa Junior College in my spare time.”
It’s exactly that mix of city planning experience and tech-savvy that makes Matt such an asset to OpenCounter.
On the Government Services team, Matt works with local agencies across the country to help make every part of their municipal codes easier to understand for the public. That often (okay, always) means unpacking thousands of pages of regulations to see how each client’s system is set up — and how it could be made easier for residents, business owners, and entrepreneurs to understand.
The end goal? Translating those complex regulatory systems into a user-friendly experience in every product we offer.
For Matt, coming to OpenCounter made for a full-circle moment.
“Having worked for years as a planner — one of the roles OpenCounter provides direct support to — gives me a unique perspective on every one of my projects. To help our clients means first knowing the frustrations they encounter every day, and then figuring out how best to configure our products to reduce those frustrations and provide them with the biggest benefits.”
And to those clients, the work Matt does can make him look like a magician — or even someone with divine powers.
“The way Matt handled our regulations, it’s almost been like a miracle,” said James Foster, the City of Detroit’s Community Development Manager, after the launch of the city’s OpenCounter portals. “I say ‘miracle’ because it’s something I couldn’t even comprehend achieving.”
Glad to have you at OpenCounter, Matt!