photo courtesy of the Jackson Mayor’s Office/ originally published October 2017
Justin Bruce, 28, is passionate about helping the capital city succeed, and as director of innovation and performance for the City of Jackson, he gets to do just that.
Born and raised in the Jackson metro, Bruce went to Madison Central High School and attended Jackson State, where he met his wife of seven years, Anna. He was previously the senior strategist and executive writer for the mayor’s office and shifted to director of innovation and performance in 2015. The office exists to “judge the performance of the department in a more tangible way,” Bruce says.
His work centers on data—facts and statistics that look at how departments in Jackson are performing. His job is to identify areas that need work and encourage projects that are doing well.
Bruce helped build the City’s open-data portal, Open Jackson, which launched in March 2016. Bruce has been working to help catch the City up technologically by creating an online system with public information on Jackson’s infrastructure, crime and more.
“It’s definitely a big undertaking,” Bruce says of his work.
His latest project is a budget app that will launch by the end of the year, which will show how the City is spending its money. Bruce says this open-data initiative is about making Jackson more transparent and holding the government accountable to its goals.
Jackson can be a city that makes better-educated, statistic-driven decisions, Bruce believes. “The city’s future is bright. It is not dead. In certain areas, it’s thriving,” he says.
After partnering with the Bloomberg Philanthropies public-data initiative, work by Bruce’s team received recognition from Government Technology magazine, Johns Hopkins University’s Arts & Sciences Magazine and Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.
“I like the ability to take an idea and see it carried out,” Bruce says. “If you don’t have a vision, you can’t do this.”
Bruce challenges existing policies and practices, forcing directors to try new methods and measuring whether those methods are successful. “My job is to get people to understand that there is more than one way to get something done,” he says.
He loves spending time with his family, including his three boys: Justin, 7; Charles, 4; and Eli, 3 months. He also enjoys traveling, being active in church and playing the piano.