Meet Our Government Services Team: Matt Kawashima

What is OpenCounter’s secret to transforming permitting and licensing for government agencies across the country? Having a deep bench of public sector experts among the ranks of our Government Services team. How else could we know all the biggest headaches people at City Hall just like you are experiencing every day if we haven’t experienced those headaches ourselves? (And we have the ibuprofen bottles to prove it!)

For Matt Kawashima, an implementation project manager on our team, the intersection of government services and technology has fascinated him since his undergraduate days. While studying city and regional planning at California Polytechnic State University, Matt was especially drawn to the technical aspects of planning, like GIS mapping and data collection.

But it would be a couple of years before he dove deep into the GovTech space. First, there was a lot of work to do to advocate for the planet.

Assessing the Environmental Impact of Development

Unlike other members of our Government Services team who worked for municipal agencies right out of college, Matt spent the first four years of his career in environmental consulting.

“I worked for two great consulting firms, preparing environmental impact assessments and entitlement packages for public and private development and redevelopment projects,” Matt said.

“I learned the intricacies of working with both urban infill and greenfield sites across California and even had a hand in some projects around combating climate change. The definite highlight was working on the Condition Compliance and Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program for the California Flats Solar Project, which transformed 2,900 acres of dryland into a site that generates enough clean solar energy every year to serve the needs of about 100,000 homes. It also displaces more than 109,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year — that’s like taking 22,000 cars off the road!”

It was high-impact engagements like the California Flats Solar Project that led Matt to the public sector. As an environmental analyst with Contra Costa County, he managed a raft of environmental compliance reports and permitting for infrastructure projects across the county.

For Matt, working on the other side of the fence brought new responsibilities — and new perspectives.

“At Contra Costa, I worked on projects related to bridge reconstructions, new fire department facilities, bike lanes, and floodplain projects. As part of this work, I collaborated with external agencies like Fish and Wildlife, Caltrans, Army Corps of Engineers, and Parks and Rec. This gave me insight into each agency’s needs and the challenges everyone faced working together at such a large scale.”

Bringing Government Into the 21st Century

At this point, Matt had seen firsthand the inefficiencies plaguing municipal agencies — especially when it came to the technology used by most local governments. In his words, innovative tech was “severely lacking in the field, taking processes that were already slow and making them painfully slow.”

Wanting to make a difference and improve the pain points he had experienced, Matt enrolled in the Master of Public Administration program at the University of San Francisco intending to become a city manager. And while he’s not sure that’s his ideal role anymore, the program deepened his understanding of the inner workings of government agencies and the unavoidable complexity of working in the space.

And now, Matt is putting that knowledge and experience to work at OpenCounter.

Since joining us in summer 2019, he’s helped improve the deployment of our permitting and licensing software for clients across the country. That means not only understanding the specific requirements of each client to ensure every OpenCounter product is optimally configured for their use, but also developing a whole lot of best practices for streamlining deployment schedules and improving our rules engine and content management system.

It’s that transformation process that makes Matt excited to come to work every day.

“Seeing the final product in place after weeks of configuration is so rewarding,” he said. “It’s exciting to see how we can take such complex regulations and model them in OpenCounter’s back end to create a user-friendly experience that everyone can understand.

“I love being at the intersection of government and tech, working to continually improve our products and helping forward-thinking clients to transform their permitting and licensing operations.”

We couldn’t agree more. Glad to have you at OpenCounter, Matt!