I first met Carolyn Purcell a number of years ago while working on a story about electronic commerce, and what seemed to me at the time, a new-fangled idea called public key infrastructure (PKI). The concept was complex (and still is), and making matters worse was that 50 states would have to agree on certain legal and technical standards if PKI and electronic commerce were going to succeed.

Not many people grasped what this was all about, why it would be beneficial or how it might work, but Purcell did, and she was willing to talk about it with journalists, such as myself, who didn't understand, but had to write an article about it.

At the time, Purcell was a founding member of the National Electronic Commerce Coordinating Council, a group made up of several different public-sector associations that relied on cooperation and collaboration to make online transactions a reality in state government.

In other words, it was an organization tailor-made for someone like Purcell, who succeeded as a CIO for one of the most decentralized state governments in the country by collaborating, persuading and charming others into doing things they had little inclination to do otherwise.

When I heard Purcell was leaving her post in Texas after nine years as CIO, I contacted her about writing an essay that would cover her career as a public servant directing IT. In this issue, she writes a personal essay that answers some significant questions about what it takes to be an IT leader in the public sector.

Purcell candidly admits mistakes she made along the way, but after reading the story, one comes away with her qualities as a leader in getting different groups of people -- whether they are agency heads, legislators or technology professionals -- to work together and come up with a solution, often with limited resources.

I will miss having her around to explain the nuances of public-sector IT policy and management in a way I can understand. Her departure also thins the ranks of women who have made a lasting impact with their long careers as IT leaders in the public sector, including Dianah Neff, Karen Evans and Liza Lowery, to name just a few.

Fortunately she leaves us with a bit of wisdom that up-and-coming CIOs -- men as well as women -- will appreciate.

Tod Newcombe  |  Senior Editor

With more than 20 years of experience covering state and local government, Tod previously was the editor of Public CIO, e.Republic’s award-winning publication for information technology executives in the public sector. He is now a senior editor for Government Technology and a columnist at Governing magazine.