Be they state, county or municipal, C-level tech leaders do much of the heavy lifting that determines an agency’s perspective on IT and helps define its relationship with the public. Though sometimes buffeted by political winds, they also command six-figure salaries and can lead true governmental transformation.
At the moment, a number of chief information officer and chief technology officer positions — two of the most typical job titles — have gone vacant this year and last, and stayed that way, particularly at the municipal level.
It’s hard to say exactly why except that, with the positions ranking among the most influential, disruptive, demanding and well-paying, both job candidates and human resources officials alike have likely faced some difficult decisions.
In one of the most recent such departures, CIO Peter Ambs left New Mexico’s largest city on June 1 for Phoenix, where he’ll be assistant CIO. Since then, Albuquerque has posted a job listing for a director of technology and innovation on its website — similar to Long Beach, Calif., which recently moved away from the CIO title.
The capital of Georgia yielded CIO Samir Saini in January to New York City, where he replaced retiring Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Anne Roest. The city named Deputy CIO Daphne Rackley as interim CIO, a position she continues to maintain. Officials have said little about their ongoing search for a permanent CIO, but it’s not unreasonable to think that the ransomware cyberattack the city suffered in March, one of the highest-profile and most debilitating against a municipality, could have impacted that timeline.
CIO Jascha Franklin-Hodge stepped down Jan. 24, and Chief of Staff Patricia Boyle-McKenna continues to lead the Department of Innovation and Technology while the agency seeks a permanent CIO. Franklin-Hodge reappeared last month as a member of the product advisory council at Govtech Fund.
One of the highest-profile departures in recent gov tech history occurred in September 2017, when this state’s CIO, Hardik Bhatt, left for Amazon, where he is leader of the smart cities and mobility group focused on state and local government and worldwide public sector. Chief Information Security Officer Kirk Lonbom continues to serve as acting CIO.
Longtime Chief IT Officer Phil Wittmer, who’d been the state’s IT leader since July 2015, resigned effective Feb. 2, mere days after the state’s new Gov. Jeffrey Colyer was sworn in. Chief Operating Officer Donna Shelite stepped in Feb. 5 as interim CITO and continues to lead technology in the executive branch. The state’s job search is ongoing; and Kara Fullmer, Colyer’s press secretary, said via email that there’s no update.
New York City
The departure of Chief Technology Officer Miguel Gamiño this spring sparked a reorganization in the New York City Mayor’s Office of the CTO. Changes in April included the selection of Gamiño’s Chief of Staff M. Alby Bocanegra as interim CTO; and of Kathleen Clark, director of communications and policy for the CTO’s office, as the new interim chief of staff. The following month, Deputy CTO Jeremy Goldberg was made managing director at municipal tech engagement program NYCx, as well as at NYC Digital, the city hub for start-ups and tech.
The state continues to seek its next technology head, after the resignation effective June 1 of CIO Alex Pettit. Pettit, who’d been CIO since early 2014, joined the Secretary of State's office in June as the first-ever business continuity program manager. In recent months, the state has had issues implementing Project Mobilizing Unified Systems and Integrated Communications (MUSIC), a multi-year, multimillion dollar telephone system, but it remains unclear whether this was related to Pettit’s exit as CIO.
This city’s chief innovation officer search remains ongoing, following the departure of CIO Charles Brennan. Brennan became CIO in 2016 after the November 2015 election of Mayor Jim Kenney. The mayor’s office indicated in January that while it supported the CIO’s work, including modernizing back-office information systems, a leadership change was in order. Mark Wheeler, deputy CIO for enterprise data and architecture, and the city’s chief geographic information officer, is serving as interim CIO.
Longtime CIO David Zolnowsky, commissioner of the state Bureau of Information and Telecommunications (BIT), retired March 30 after roughly six years in the lead tech position. Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who appointed Zolnowsky, has appointed Pat Snow, the BIT chief technology officer and director of telecommunications, as interim commissioner through 2018.
Tracye Cantrell, Seattle’s IT chief of staff, has served as its acting chief technology officer since the resignation of four-year CTO Michael Mattmiller in early February. Kamaria Hightower, press secretary to Mayor Jenny Durkan, confirmed that a nationwide search for Mattmiller’s replacement is ongoing.
Not every agency has a CIO. In D.C., the chief technology officer is its lead technology exec in the mayor’s cabinet. Barney Krucoff, the muni’s first-ever chief data officer, has served as interim CTO here since the January departure of former CTO Archana Vemulapalli. The city’s search for a permanent CTO is ongoing, an official confirmed recently.
Elsewhere, high-profile C-level positions are being filled. In Montana, IT veteran Tim Bottenfield’s first day as CIO was July 2. He’d been CIO at the state Department of Revenue since 2011. Nevada named former LinkedIn senior manager Michael Dietrich its new CIO in April, replacing Shanna Rahming, who stepped down in February after three years in the role.
And in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced June 8 he’d appointed Christopher Rein as the state’s second-ever chief technology officer. Rein had been deputy director of the state Office of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell, and also the state’s deputy chief information security officer.