I’m writing today to announce that I am stepping down as Open States project lead, and from my role as Director of Public Data at Civic Eagle. I have decided I want to explore other career goals, and that it is the right time for me to move on, both for myself and for the project’s future.
It was thirteen years ago this month that Open States was born. In these past thirteen years the project has had many different forms: the initial volunteer-driven project, a large & fully funded project of the Sunlight Foundation, an independent project in desperate need of resources, a part of National Science Foundation C-Accel program, and now a key part of Civic Eagle. I’m proud that it has come through these transitions stronger, and I have no doubt that my transition away from full time project lead will be no different.
I wouldn’t have been able to make this decision if I hadn’t felt that the project would land in good hands. I’m therefore extremely grateful to my coworkers at Civic Eagle, particularly Jesse Mortenson and Rylie Johnson, who will be heading the Civic Eagle side of things. I’m also grateful to core team member Tim Showers, who has been instrumental in the project’s survival thus far, and newer contributors like the folks at Resistbot that have helped to breathe new life into the openstates/people portion of the project. And of course, I am immensely grateful to every single person that has contributed to the project, whether it is code, financial support, helpful criticism, or being a part of this community. It has always been tremendously satisfying to see the project gain traction, to see others want to improve upon what was already built, and to hear stories of the project helping folks. I’m glad I’ll be able to continue to watch things thrive under new leadership.
Finally, stepping away does not mean goodbye entirely— I do intend to stay involved with the project, making commits, giving feedback, and offering knowledge & support to the new team. I hope to see all of you again at a future Open States summit!
When we got together in early December for the Open States Summit, I didn’t know that we’d soon have such big shoes to fill. It’s been an honor to work closely with James since he came on board in 2020. I always admired his long dedication to this project. In an industry where job hopping is common and fancy tech comes and goes, that tenacious dedication to a public good outcome stands out. So much so that I couldn’t imagine James wanting to do anything else! But thirteen years is a long time and I understand and respect his decision to start a new chapter.
This announcement doesn’t come with any mission change from Civic Eagle: we remain committed to expanding the scope of open civic data. It’s an honor that James trusts us enough that he feels comfortable stepping out of a driving role. As Civic Eagle CTO, I’ll make sure we deliver good on that trust.
In day-to-day operations you’ll continue to see more of Rylie Johnson. They are our Civic Data Maintainer, and bring several years of experience in this domain to the job. Rylie started at Civic Eagle by digging through dozens of states’ legislative documents and metadata, adapting the data processing logic that powers our commercial product, Enview. In the last year they’ve been working with James with data operations, which provides some helpful continuity in this moment. Those two just achieved our smoothest season of new legislative sessions, ever. It feels good.
We’d love to get to know you better. I invite you to stop by this Friday to say hi, wish James well, ask questions, or share ideas. We’ll have open office hours 1:30pm - 3:30pm Central Time: sign up here!
If you can’t make it Friday, please reach out in our Open States Slack to introduce yourself, and we can set something up.
Civic Eagle was founded in the knowledge that there are big accessibility barriers to equal participation in our democracy. We are building Enview for the heroes of democracy, people who are navigating complex and obscured systems to bring more voices to policy-making. We envision a future where people and data drive policy. Providing a common good of accessible data on legislation through Open States is fundamental to that vision.
Who will be making decisions for the Open States project going forward?
Civic Eagle owns the code repositories and cloud infrastructure that powers OpenStates.org, the API, public data, and scraping/ingestion pipeline. Jesse will be the bottom line for strategy decisions, and Rylie will be the point person for day-to-day operations.
Will James still be involved?
Yes! James is really valuable to the project, and he’ll still be contributing and advising in a Founder Emeritus role.
Will Open States continue to provide open civic data?
Yes! If anything, we’d like to see more commercial vendors in this space contribute back to a healthy baseline of standardized, accessible open civic data.
How do I contribute to the future of Open States?
We really value contributors! As James mentioned, Resistbot and Tim make huge contributions to the project, and we will continue those partnerships. There are three ways to contribute:
- Join the Open States Slack and share your thoughts.
- Contribute code enhancements to our repositories, such as openstates-scrapers and people.
- Participate in the Enhancement Proposal process to weigh in on bigger changes.