Thomas Jarrett, Delaware’s first state CIO and former president of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), died Tuesday, Oct. 16, after a brief illness. He was 61.
Appointed Delaware CIO in 2001 by then-Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, Jarrett was tasked with creating the state’s Department of Technology and Information. He spent more than seven years as state CIO and was named one of Government Technology’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers in 2005.
Jarrett was active in NASCIO from 2001 until his departure and retirement from Delaware in 2009, serving as the organization’s president in 2005. He received NASCIO’s Meritorious Service Award in 2006 for his service, advocacy and leadership in state government.
Prior to public service, Jarrett spent 30 years with Verizon Delaware, retiring as the company’s vice president of governmental affairs.
In an interview with Government Technology, NASCIO Executive Director Doug Robinson called Jarrett a “wild guy” who took his work seriously, but not himself. A Harley-Davidson enthusiast who rarely stuck to a script, Jarrett was credited by Robinson as the driving force behind NASCIO’s focus on governmental affairs.
“He was first one that really championed the NASCIO advocacy voice rather than just serving association members,” Robinson recalled about Jarrett. “From that point on, a couple of years later, we opened a [Washington] D.C. office and hired a director of governmental affairs, so I credit him with starting those conversations.”
But Robinson also remembered Jarrett as the guy who’d tease tie-wearing conference attendees when the dress code was business casual. Jarrett would also question bureaucracy and long-standing policies he felt didn’t work.
“He was the leader, but he’d also be the one to say, ‘We aren’t going to do it that way anymore because it doesn’t make sense,’” Robinson added.
Jim Sills succeeded Jarrett as CIO of Delaware in 2009. Sills told Government Technology that it was Jarrett who had the foresight to create a state government IT department based on a corporate model. The Department of Technology and Information is a “pay-for-performance” organization where employees are evaluated every six months.
“He was really keen in setting up the right kind of flexibility for hiring staff … and the procurement of resources, but also for solutions and services,” Sills said. “It’s a little different than some of the other state agencies.”
He is survived by his wife Eileen of Tucson, Ariz., and other family members. A celebration of life will be scheduled at a later date.