How do you single out the government IT community's 25 most influential members from the legions of dedicated policy-makers and professionals throughout the nation? The short answer, of course, is "very carefully." The reality, however, is somewhat more complex.

Government Technology faced that reality last summer as we began planning our second annual Top 25 issue. At the end of a six-month journey, we arrived at the results that appear in this month's issue. Here's a look at how we got there.

Each year, e.Republic, the corporate entity behind Government Technology, interacts with tens of thousands of members of the public-sector IT community. The magazine's editorial staff talks with the brightest minds in government IT each month. Government Technology's Conference Division hosts thousands of government leaders at GTC conferences and events. And the Center for Digital Government produces some of the industry's most in-depth research on government's use of technology, giving its researchers a unique perspective on IT leadership at the state and local level.

So we attempted to distill this mass of institutional knowledge into a short list representing the "best of the best" in government IT. Throughout the fall, Government Technology editors and representatives from e.Republic's other business units held meetings in which everyone made a case for their nominees. That long and sometimes painful process was guided by the following criteria:

-- Nominees had to be active in federal, state or local government during 2002.

-- They needed to demonstrate e-government leadership that significantly changed the landscape of their jurisdiction.

-- Their efforts must have served as a model for other jurisdictions or government sectors.

-- Nominees needed to be active in the promotion of digital government, participating in associations or other organizations that encourage collaboration or sharing.

-- They had to be visionaries who embrace innovation.

-- Their work must have positively impacted government operations and served constituents of their jurisdictions.

-- Finally, they could not have been on last year's Top 25 list.

Our efforts produced a Top 25 list that includes a broad range of talented individuals -- legislators, CIOs, secretaries of state, mayors, governors and others -- from federal, state and local government. Although their positions and jurisdictions vary widely, each has played a pivotal role in advancing digital government. They truly are government's doers, dreamers and drivers -- transforming public-sector operations to serve the multifaceted needs of today's society.

It's also important to note that this list is uniquely ours, formed by Government Technology's relationships and interactions with thought leaders throughout the nation. We firmly believe these individuals spearheaded transformation in their jurisdictions and influenced the development of electronic governance as a whole.

That said, we readily acknowledge others could easily have been included. Whether you agree with our choices or not, we hope you find this year's list both thoughtful and thought provoking.

Welcome to the second annual Government Technology Top 25 issue and congratulations to this year's group of dreamers, doers and drivers.