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Boston's Office Of New Urban Mechanics Hires First In-House Developer

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Friday, October 5 2012

Boston's office of New Urban Mechanics is hiring former Code for America Fellow Michael Evans as its first in-house developer as it seeks to build out a team of "civic technologists."

Evans, 32, starts his new job in Boston's City Hall on Monday. He'll be working for New Urban Mechanics Co-chairs Nigel Jacob and Chris Osgood. With Evans on board, New Urban Mechanics will have seven members of staff with skills ranging from programming to policymaking and urban planning.

"He will have a very wide berth to explore new ideas and to forge partnerships on his own," Jacob said in an interview.

But one central idea is to have someone on board who will enable New Urban Mechanics to develop user-friendly tools for the public in an agile environment. The office previously partnered with outside organizations, such as Code for America, and civic-startup Connected Bits to create tech projects. (Connected Bits helped to develop Street Bump.)

Evans is leaving the data visualization and cartography firm Stamen to join New Urban Mechanics in Boston. He joined Stamen briefly after being a 2011 fellow at Code for America.

"My first project in Boston will focus on expanding Discover BPS, a 2011 Code for America project that helps parents navigate the public school system," Evans said. "I'll also be working on introducing more Open311 applications, such as those found on 311 Labs."

He adds that his hiring in Boston will be the start of a trend.

"At the end of the 2011 fellowship, we all realized that, beyond the Code for America fellowship, there were few opportunities for us to apply our open-source coding skills within the confines of city hall. I'm hoping that programs like New Urban Mechanics can eventually lure like-minded technologists into city government."

My colleague Nick Judd recently wrote about the significance of New Urban Mechanics. In an interview, Jacob said that he thinks of his office much like Betaworks, a company that incubates and scales ideas.