What’s one of the ways OpenCounter stands apart in the government technology space? The people on our Government Services team with deep experience in the public sector. They’re the in-house experts who know first-hand how complex zoning, permitting, and licensing are — and the frustration and inefficiencies they’re causing you and your colleagues.
After all, how can we end your biggest headaches if we haven’t experienced those same issues ourselves?
Linh Vuong, director of the Government Services team, has felt every one of those headaches. That’s because her time working in government agencies in California, Massachusetts, and Hawaii showed her how subpar technology makes the complex work of City Hall even more difficult.
“Why shouldn’t local government have the advantage of working with best-in-class tools?” Linh often asks. “The work they do is critical to our everyday lives. And that significance is lost, buried under bureaucracy and technology that are a disservice to us all.”
And it’s exactly that passion for enacting positive change that’s driven Linh since her student days.
Forging a Path to “Make a Difference”
While studying political science at UC Berkeley, Linh had one simple career goal: to make a difference. But as the end of her studies approached, daydreams of traveling the world working for the United Nations or an NGO faded as she was drawn more and more to local government.
“The challenges local governments face today go far beyond traffic patterns and commercial development,” Linh said. “In the first few years of my career, I was working in Santa Cruz and San Jose, California, to tackle enormous issues for their citizens, like water conservation, mitigating the impact of natural disasters, and how to make access to high-speed internet more equitable as a public utility.”
Complementing those big-picture initiatives was a raft of projects that focused on more commonplace issues cities face, like public safety, graffiti, and (of course!) zoning and permitting. For Linh, no project was too challenging — even if it meant overhauling code for one of the nation’s largest cities.
“As a performance data analyst for the City of Boston,” she told us, “I had the opportunity to design and conduct an analysis of the city’s zoning code to identify key recommendations for reform. It was a chance to get deep in the weeds of the municipal code to make a difference for Boston’s residents and businesses. It was a thrilling project and served as the foundation for then-Mayor Marty Walsh’s vision for Imagine Boston 2030 — the first citywide master plan delivered in 50 years.”
All in a day’s work for someone like Linh, who’s proud to note that “process improvement is my jam.”
Moving to GovTech — and Never Looking Back
Linh made the transition from the public sector to GovTech when she joined the OpenCounter team in 2015. But her introduction to OpenCounter and its cofounders, Joel Mahoney and Peter Koht, came a few years earlier during an internship with Code for America.
“Having lived in the Bay Area for nearly a decade, I was very much surrounded by the tech scene,” she said. “So when I had an opportunity to join Code for America as an intern, I saw it as the perfect chance to combine policy and technology.
“During the internship I met Joel, who was a Code for America fellow, and Peter, who worked for one of the organization’s partner cities. Getting to know both of them as they lit the spark that would become OpenCounter showed me how dedicated they are to improving the lives of City Hall workers.”
And now, Linh brings that dedication to life every day.
As head of the Government Services team, she works with local agencies across the country to help make every part of their municipal codes easier to understand for the public. That means unpacking reams of thorny regulations to see how each client’s system is set up — and then transforming those codes into language and processes that are easier for a city’s residents, business owners, and entrepreneurs to understand.
“For me, there’s such joy and beauty in distilling really difficult, confusing topics into something easy to follow,” she said. “The goal every day is to make zoning and permitting so easy that City Hall teams and applicants alike don’t think twice about it.”
But Linh’s contributions to OpenCounter go far beyond the expert work she does as head of the Government Services team. As one of our first employees to come on board, Linh has helped to build our company culture as OpenCounter grew from a four-person startup into a thriving business with a mission perfectly aligned with Linh’s: to make a difference.
“Working with local government in any capacity means being in a state of flux. Making meaningful change happen isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight. It means constantly learning, changing, and adapting. There’s always a new problem to solve, which is why I’ve never looked back since the day I joined OpenCounter.”
Thanks for being a part of our journey and our success, Linh!