Q&A with Raymond Burns, Precinct 2's IT Manager
1. Describe your role within Precinct 2 and how it impacts our constituents.
I am the IT manager at Precinct 2. Growing up as a Chicago resident, I didn’t always have the greatest opportunities of building meaningful friendships within my neighborhood. I spent my time outside of school walking the neighborhood with stray dogs and looking for treasures in other people’s trash. One day I found an old NEC desktop computer that was thrown away, and a passion was sparked in me. I rebuilt that computer with parts from other trash and was able to get my family to the internet for the first time through America Online (AOL).
Over the years I have grown that passion for learning and introducing technology to people and situations. In combination with keeping a First Principle approach, I use all facets of IT to solve problems unorthodoxly but with super-effective solutions. I work with several departments within Precinct 2, as well as many collaborations with different agencies throughout Harris County.
My overall goal for Harris County Precinct 2 and its constituents is to provide a stable, resilient, and reliable interface to use technology in solving the most difficult problems.
2. What project are you most excited about right now and why?
The project that excites me the most is the effort that I’m making to introduce alternative and green technology for solving our everyday utility needs. The primary key to stability in effectiveness is autonomy. Any solution that works well should be able to work well independently. A lot of the green initiatives started by Commissioner Adrian Garcia have the added capability of supporting energy independence. Most recently, we completed a pilot project introducing the first electric fleet vehicle by any commissioner precinct. In addition to reducing our carbon footprint to make Houston’s air and quality of life better, the electric vehicle project is the first step to having energy independence. My goal in expanding this project is to also generate the energy used to fuel the vehicle through solar and wind partnerships. Moreover, this technology establishes a pathway to provide emergency power requirements in the event of a natural disaster. The stability and resilience of being able to supply the power our constituents may need in their most desperate time is just a compounded benefit to the natural effects of utilizing green, renewable resources.
Raymond, second from the right, pictured with the Precinct 2 IT team.
3. What does Earth Day mean to you, and how to celebrate it?
Earth Day to me is a recognition of the gift we have on this planet. I don’t like to think of Earth Day as the day that we come together to make an effort to restore our planet, but as a day to come together to recognize the efforts we’ve made all year. It’s a day to be grounded. It reminds you of how far you’ve come from the little things like picking up a trash water bottle from the grass to the large things like investing in solar or an electric vehicle. Earth Day reminds us of the part that we play, and how far we still have to go. I celebrate Earth Day by taking time to look at the stars at night. Seeing the stars at night tells me progress has been made. I didn’t get to see very many stars living in Chicago. Seeing the stars now says anything is possible and having faith to take the opportunities in life to shine is well worth it.
Pictured above: A view of the solar panels Raymond installed on his home.
4. What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a more environmentally friendly lifestyle?
My advice to someone who wants to contribute to an environmentally friendly lifestyle is to actually live a lifestyle that is economically friendly. A lot of times people look at the finish line and think it’s too far to try. Living an environmentally friendly lifestyle is the most economical over time. I learned from my time on mission trips that the investment is more in the beginning, but the payoff is compounded over time. What are some things that are important to you? How have those things affected you over 10 years? I evaluated my life and wanted to pay fewer bills to have more money to use and share with my family. My solution turned out to be solar panels. Though it was a hefty investment upfront, I was able to change my electric bill from a variable to a constant. Now my family and I can live a life of less worry without the increased cost of energy. Even through disaster, my lifestyle remained constant. People overestimate what can be done in one year and underestimate what can be done in 10 years. Look at your life over the next 10 years, and sustainable solutions will stick out as economic problems show up!