The city of Chattanooga next month is bringing in a high-ranking Coca-Cola executive as its next chief information officer.
Tyson Morris, of Atlanta, is set to take over the position Feb. 7. He'll replace Koren Sapp, who serves as interim CIO and will move back to her previous deputy role. Morris' salary will be $133,900.
"This was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity where my family and I had always been wanting to get back to Chattanooga and be a leader in technology for the city," Morris said in a Wednesday phone interview.
The incoming CIO, who has more than 15 years of experience in the IT field, works as the global head of architecture, platforms and operations for Coca-Cola.
He previously started both the e-commerce and data science practices for Coca-Cola North America.
While he has visited the city on many occasions, he has never lived in Chattanooga, Morris said. He will be moving to the city next week. He has not yet met with members of the city council.
"'Gig City' is fortunate to have an applicant with Tyson's education and experience, the innovation and operational efficiency this level of preparedness will bring to the public sector," said city spokesperson Mary Beth Ikard in a statement Tuesday.
Morris said he became interested in the position when reviewing Kelly's plans to build up infrastructure in the city while he was running for mayor.
Upon taking the position, he said, he looks forward to breaking into the public sector to bridge any digital divide using his position to work with local businesses and schools.
"My team will be in charge of running all of the infrastructure, all of the databases, all of the digital touchpoints," Morris said.
The position is a "general government" function that by city charter does not require council approval, although the mayor's office spoke with city administrators, cabinet members and others about the hire.
Council vice chair Ken Smith of Hixson said he is not bothered that council members aren't required to confirm the position because of the nature of the role.
"His qualifications on paper look fantastic," Smith said in a Wednesday phone interview. "I even asked if they told him the salary before he accepted the job. They definitely look pretty high level."
Council chair Chip Henderson of Lookout Valley and Councilwoman Carol Berz of Brainerd Hills on Wednesday said they weren't aware of the hire.
"I don't know anything about it," Berz in a phone interview, adding that many positions in government don't require their approval and it isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Morris, a white man, will take over the position as some council members have voiced concerns about a lack of diversity in Kelly's administration.
In December, Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod of Eastdale said she was "concerned about not having adequate representation that represents our community."
She made the comments before joining the rest of the council to appoint Adam Veron, a white male, to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission.
Coonrod on Tuesday declined to comment on the matter.
Ikard, though, said that in the growing IT industry "qualified candidates that can add racial and gender diversity to large organizations are highly coveted, and therefore likely otherwise employed in the private sector."
The city's human resources office is actively working with the equity and community engagement department to broaden its recruitment strategy to bring in more diverse candidates, Ikard added.
Councilman Anthony Byrd of Orchard Knob said after Tuesday's council meeting that he isn't jumping to any conclusions about who is chosen for positions within Kelly's administration.
"What I want to figure out is how many African Americans are qualified and apply for the job," Byrd said.
Once those details are known, he said, a conversation can start from there.
Contact Logan Hullinger by phone at 814-319-5158 or via email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @LoganHullinger.