Like many high-level state government jobs, the chief information officer is appointed by the governor. Unlike those other jobs, though, the CIO is at least nominally responsible for creating policies that affect the entire enterprise of state government. A revolving door at the CIO's office could, arguably, create technology headaches for a state both in the present and in the future.
If a state's method of managing technology across the enterprise is constantly in flux, does the state run the risk of setting itself up for embarrassing technology scandals, snafus and set backs?
Finding the Right Person
Appointees are chosen for a reason, either they're very good politically or they're very savvy with some aspect of the job, said Wendy Rayner, the first CIO of New Jersey and a partner of Tatum CIO Partners.
Governors need to bring in their own team because those people support the governor's agenda, and career employees may not because they have their own ways of doing things or came in under a different administration, she said.
Patronage is a force in the appointment process, and it's a force that won't go away despite its dangers, Rayner said.
"If people think technology is important, they'd better hire somebody who can do the job and not just put a patronage person in there," she said. "There's too much that can go wrong. We're kind of like the quiet wheel -- if we squeak, it's not good. We're paying the checks; we're doing unemployment, Medicare, you name it.
"There's thousands, if not millions, of pieces of paper and checks and things that are getting done every day," she said. "You want to find good people for these jobs. Governors try to, certainly for the top jobs. Yes, they're going to pay some people back, but, generally, you want to find qualified people because, as governor, you don't want all that [negative] exposure, either."
Turning Vision Into Reality
Incoming administrations should have the opportunity to fill certain, critical positions with appointed personnel, said Stephanie Comai, who was appointed director of the e-Michigan Office, the lead agency for electronic-government initiatives in state agencies, by Gov. John Engler.
"The administration will have a vision about what they want to see the state move toward," Comai said. "Governor John Engler certainly has a technology vision for this state, and he's been able to accomplish what he's accomplished, oftentimes, because he does have somebody who's an appointee and who can bring new leadership to the agency or to the program."
Trust plays a large role in governors' decisions of who to appoint to key positions, and including the CIO position.
"The trend has been that the CIO is a commissioner, a secretary or a cabinet official, which generally means that the governor gets to appoint the CIO," said Rock Regan, CIO of Connecticut and president of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO). "That's good, because governors need to have somebody they can trust. They want somebody who can come in and get a handle on things, and, then as the governor sets the priorities, to have somebody who can deliver. The institutional knowledge is there because the staff isn't going to change."
A Position With No Teeth
The CIO is too important to a state to not be filled by a political appointment, said John Thomas Flynn, CEO of TechEd Strategies, a technology consulting entity that's part of the Community College Foundation. Flynn also was the first CIO of Massachusetts and was also CIO of California.
"If you're not a political appointee, you don't have a seat at the table," Flynn said. "If you're not a political appointee, you're not a