We speak to Rene Almaraz, Director, Department of Procurement Services, City of Richmond, Virginia to see how public procurement is transforming at the city…
The values of the City of Richmond’s Department of Procurement Services (DPS) are set out on the opening page of its first ever annual report: teamwork, integrity, innovation, customer focus and leadership. The report is the work of the department’s relatively new director, Rene Almaraz, and his staff, and highlights the team’s achievements – in fiscal year 2023 – and priorities for the future, and also the guiding principles that influence how and why decisions are made.
Almaraz says: “Our goal is to build an organisation that’s more nimble, that provides faster and higher quality service, and supports the customer to the highest degree possible, which includes explaining to them why and when they should follow a specific process. This, in turn leads to how we can get it done better the next time.”
A man of experience
It will be two years in January since Almaraz took on the role, with clear goals for creating a more agile department that delivers for internal customers and the people of Richmond. With thirty-three years of Department of Defense, commercial and public sector acquisition experience behind him, Almaraz is well placed to achieve his ambitions. He says his initial experience working with the Department of Defense allowed him to develop a finely tuned understanding of how important contracts should be organised and managed.
Almaraz began his career in the Air Force operations before transitioning to contracting, he explains: “I transitioned from missile operations and started my contracting career with a fellowship in defense contracting at Lockheed Missiles and Space Company out in Sunnyvale, California. I spent ten months with the company, learning the ins and outs of defense contracting, and then served two assignments, one with Defense Logistics Agency in San Francisco and the next at Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base.”
After his time in the Air Force, he worked in manager and director roles at US West and Qwest Communications in Denver, CO and Rockwell Collins, Inc., in Cedar Rapids IA and Tustin, CA. This was followed by a role as head of contracting at San Diego Unified School District, supporting 100,000 students, 10,000 staff and 200 schools and central office facilities – a position with 35 staff reporting to Almaraz.
“We did all the procuring, from construction of new schools to purchasing buses, copiers, school and office supplies and even pickled pigs for science classes. My staff, we bought everything,” he says. The City of Richmond is much smaller than San Diego, and Almaraz came to the DPS with what he describes as a “very large metropolitan kind of mentality”.
He says: “I’ve been trying to make that adjustment to having fewer resources that I can lean on. I made a move from Southern California to the east coast and I didn’t have a network here, so I’ve been rebuilding a network and working with entities that can help me grow.”