Linden Thatcher became the first CIO of Maricopa County, Ariz., five years ago and brought with him a style unique to local government. Thatcher has implemented a private-sector-type culture, including similar job titles and pay scales, and reward systems for motivating and developing staff. Thatcher personally produces The Captains Log, a newsletter that highlights staff accomplishments.

Q: How did you get salaries in Maricopa County to be in private-sector range?

A: We went to human resources and said, "What is it that you would accept as industry-standard reference points for job scale definitions of pay?"

The key thing is to let human resources have their role and play the lead. Be a partner with them and [dont] go off and do it independently. We established an excellent working relationship with them.

Q: What are your ideas on how to create a productive staff?

A: We have semiannual IT forums where we bring in high-powered speakers to inspire everyone about what were doing and the importance of what were doing. Its an opportunity for all of us to get together offsite and let them know theyre important.

Our working model is that we want to be as good as anybody. We never consider that were second-class citizens in government in terms of an IT operation. We dont pay attention to the fact that were in government other than those are the clients that we serve.

We have a strong infusion of a lot of high-quality private-sector expertise, together with some of the best people who have been in government for a while. That blending gives us a real synergy of where were going and what were doing.

We encourage risk taking. Sometimes because of the circumstances or the politics or the funding or the skill level of the individual, it doesnt pan out, but we tried and we learned something in the process. If you fail, at least dont fail to learn the lesson.

Q: What is the biggest challenge on the horizon for Maricopa County?

A: Electronic government is the ultimate challenge. First of all, its a funding challenge. Then its a political challenge. Everything we do in electronic government now is horizontal. It not only crosses internal agencies within the county, it crosses external agencies too. The third [challenge] is the reengineering of the processes. In other words, fundamentally changing the way government works. Youre fundamentally changing processes to be electronic and live along electronic workflow, whether that workflow is internal, whether it flows out to another agency or flows to the citizen.

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor