U.S. Digital Response Appoints Jessica Cole as Interim Chief Executive Officer, Tina Walha as Director of Public Digital
USDR to expand its executive team as founding CEO, Raylene Yung, transitions to a new role within the Biden Administration.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA — U.S. Digital Response (USDR) today announced the appointment of Jessica Cole as interim CEO and the expansion of its executive team with the addition of Tina Walha as USDR’s Director of Public Digital. Founding CEO Raylene Yung will transition from her position to join the Biden Administration, working on technology modernization at the General Services Administration (GSA) starting next month.
Cole previously served as USDR’s Chief Operating Officer and is one of the organization’s co-founders. She was most recently a fellow at the Aspen Institute’s Tech Policy Hub, served as the Head of Innovation and Economic Development for the City of Walnut Creek, and was a Code for America Fellow.
Walha will join USDR in October after 6 years as the Director of Innovation and Performance at the City of Seattle. Walha also served as a policy advisor to Mayor Mike Bloomberg and a management consultant to government and nonprofit leaders. Walha will spearhead USDR’s public sector capacity-building work as its Director of Public Digital, where she will focus on growing USDR’s impact and partnerships so governments can keep pace with their communities’ most critical needs, now and for the future.
They join existing executive team members Chief Technology Officer, Alex Allain, and Chief Experience Officer, Jessica Watson.
“It has been an honor to help build an organization that has not only delivered on our promise to improve digital services at scale, but has also been able to consistently evolve to meet the changing needs of the people we serve. I can’t think of better people than Jessica and Tina to lead the next chapter for U.S. Digital Response, surrounded by an incredible team,” Yung said. “USDR has always been shaped and supported by an entire community, and I know it will continue to be in good hands as our executive team grows.”
“I’ve always been inspired by U.S. Digital Response’s commitment to support our communities at the ‘speed of need’ — the unofficial motto that speaks directly to why we started this organization,” Cole said. “USDR emerged from all of our shared desire to help in an urgent and uncertain time, as public servants and technologists who built deep collaborations to get communities what they most needed. This work is shared, it is hard, it is important, and I’m honored to steward it into our next chapter.”
Walha joins a USDR team of more than a dozen permanent staff members, including strong program teams led by co-founder Emily Barlow as the Rapid Response Program Lead and recently-hired Jessie Posilkin as the Economic Stability Program Lead. “I’ve experienced firsthand how USDR works with its partners to address resident needs with humility and a focus on results,” Walha said. “I’m excited to join the team this fall to explore opportunities to support governments and communities in new ways.”
USDR launched in March of 2020 with a vision to assist governments and nonprofit organizations in responding rapidly to the critical needs of the public by pairing them with experienced, pro-bono technologists. Since then, USDR has partnered with more than 230 organizations in order to help deliver technical solutions for our country’s most pressing needs. Working on more than 300 projects that have impacted more than 42 million people across 36 states and territories, USDR has built a dedicated community of nearly 7,000 pro bono technologists who are ready to serve.
USDR’s projects with partners span from country-wide solutions to community-specific needs. Notable projects include:
- Launching a collective and central appointment system for the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Developing easy-to-use digital tools for election officials to manage poll workers, particularly helping Harris County, Texas process over 7,000 applications and distributed workers to over 700 polling locations.
- Partnering with 9 states to ensure claimants receive Unemployment Insurance.
- Assisting in the distribution of nearly $14 million in rental assistance in Memphis.
“USDR’s work to help governments and nonprofits deliver responsive, people-centered services with modern and resilient technology is as critical now as it has ever been,” said Cori Zarek, a USDR advisor and co-founder who is currently the Executive Director of Georgetown University’s Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation and a former U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer. “Public service is central to USDR and we’re excited for Raylene’s next steps and very confident in the direction USDR is headed.”
To see open staff positions at USDR, visit https://us-digital-response.breezy.hr/ or to volunteer at USDR visit https://www.usdigitalresponse.org/volunteers/. To support USDR’s work, visit their giving portal give.communityin.org/USDigitalResponse.
About U.S. Digital Response
U.S. Digital Response is a nonprofit, nonpartisan effort that helps governments and organizations respond quickly and efficiently to better serve the public in times of crisis. When public servants are faced with extraordinary tasks, USDR’s team of pro bono tech experts brings the “extra.” Founded in 2020, USDR connects governments and organizations with a surge of technology, resources, and support at critical moments, leaving them better equipped to deliver services and support to millions of people nationwide. Visit www.USDigitalResponse.org to learn more.