UPDATE: After Less Than Two Months, Alaska’s CIO Leaves

State officials are mum as websites and turnover point to more changes in the Alaska Department of Administration. After the departure of the department's leader, new CIO Peter Zuyus has also left.

by / February 6, 2019

UPDATE 2/7/19: Peter Zuyus is out as Alaska’s chief information officer after less than two months in the role, according to the state’s website as of Thursday. The site lists attorney Paula Vrana, who joined the state department on Jan. 2, as acting CIO.

When Government Technology reported earlier this week that Zuyus was Alaska’s new CIO, he was still listed as such on official websites of the state of Alaska and the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. Neither he nor Gov. Michael Dunleavy’s office responded to calls and emails in recent weeks asking for an interview.

Dunleavy’s office has yet to comment on the matter, but a Facebook post from a political blog, the Alaska Landmine, reported on Tuesday that Zuyus was let go.

His departure follows a series of recent leadership changes in the Alaska Department of Administration, which oversees the state’s Office of Information Technology. The department’s head commissioner, Jonathan Quick, resigned Jan. 24 amid controversy surrounding his résumé. Vrana replaced Quick as acting commissioner until Jan. 31, when Dunleavy chose a full-time replacement in Kelly Tshibaka, a former chief data officer for the U.S. Postal Service Office of the Inspector General and former counsel for the U.S. Department of Justice.

After filling in as acting commissioner of the Department of Administration, Vrana’s name replaced Zuyus’ on the state website one week later as the acting CIO, two days after the Alaska Landmine reported Zuyus was let go.

While the reasons for Zuyus’ departure are unconfirmed, he shares a political connection with Quick. Zuyus’ political consulting firm, Juggernaut Consulting, worked on behalf of the 2018 campaign of Sarah Vance against incumbent Rep. Paul Seaton for the state Legislature. Meanwhile, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce, for whom Quick used to be chief of staff, donated to Vance’s campaign. By the end of the year, Vance had won the election, Dunleavy’s office chose Quick to lead its Department of Administration and Zuyus became CIO.

Neither Zuyus nor representatives of the Department of Administration and Office of the Governor responded to emails and phone calls seeking comment.

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ORIGINAL STORY: Alaska’s new chief information officer is Peter Zuyus, according to the state’s website and the National Association of State Chief Information Officers.

Zuyus replaces Bill Vajda, the first Alaska CIO to oversee a centralized IT structure, who resigned in August, as well as subsequent acting CIO John Boucher. Vajda took the role in 2017, when then-Gov. Bill Walker consolidated the state’s technology and telecommunications assets into a single agency due to inefficiencies.

Alaska’s Deputy CIO Dan DeBartolo told Government Technology in September 2018 that the state would conduct a national search for its next CIO.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Zuyus attended Saint Mary’s College of California in the 1970s and owns Juggernaut Consulting, a business and political consulting firm registered to a residential address in Homer, Alaska. He also owned Juggernaut Enterprises, a charter boat company registered to the same home address and dissolved in 2016, according to documents filed with the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development.

Zuyus and officials at the state of Alaska have yet to comment on his hire. Their silence, coupled with the fact that Gov. Michael Dunleavy made no mention of technology in his State of the State address in January while voicing concerns about wasteful spending, leaves the direction of Alaska's government IT unclear.