In the latest departure to hit Michigan’s state C-suite, its chief technologist will be stepping down at the end of the week for a similar position at the municipal level.
Rod Davenport, chief technology officer at the state of Michigan and a confirmed advocate of change through technology, announced his impending departure to staffers on Aug. 6, Caleb Buhs, director of communications at the Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB) confirmed to Government Technology. Davenport’s last day at with the state will be Aug. 17.
In his absence, the state will appoint an interim CTO, but Buhs indicated Davenport’s absence will leave a sizeable vacancy. “I don’t have any updates on that, but obviously we will be looking for the best individual to fill that role,” Buhs said, noting that the state will conduct a nationwide search.
In his more than six years as CTO, Davenport has accomplished considerable enterprise-level IT and cultural change and was recognized in March as one of GT’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers & Drivers of 2018.
One initiative, the state’s virtual data center, included both types of change, he told GT earlier this year. A “data center within a data center,” it turned on “private cloud”; but its cultural change potential was even more significant.
“It became an opportunity for the technology people to get back to their roots, learn new things,” Davenport said at the time.
As CTO, Davenport has directed and developed all tech strategies in the 10th largest state, including infrastructure and operations for all agencies and enterprise architecture, he said on LinkedIn –– even cybersecurity during an interval where he served concurrently as Michigan’s interim chief security officer.
“My approach to IT leadership has always centered on driving sustainable organizational change. By focusing on ways technology can spur long-term improvements in team performance and business operations, I’ve led countless profitable initiatives,” he said on LinkedIn, indicating his career highlights included updating technical infrastructure for a system “affecting nearly 10 million people.” That’s a reference to his time in Michigan, and the fact that, as he told GT, even small IT changes at that level will impact many people.
“Technology is the amplifier of the human spirit. It’s always had this potential for transformation in society,” he said earlier this year. In a 2014 discussion of how to fill well-documented gaps in the state-level cybersecurity workforce, Davenport was similarly complimentary toward the public sector and said the state needed “to appeal to folks’ sense of the nobility of public service” to offset government’s well-documented compensation disparity relative to the private sector.
The CTO was previously an enterprise technology strategist for more than 10 years at DTE Energy, an electric utility, and after leaving the state, he’ll be joining the Lansing Board of Water and Light, a municipal utility, as its chief information officer. The publicly-owned company provides water and electricity to residents of Lansing and East Lansing and several adjacent townships.
Earlier this summer, James McFarlane, Michigan’s director of agency services and a 15-year public-sector employee, also left the state for La-Z-Boy Inc., in Monroe, Mich., where he is now director of IT business services. McFarlane’s last day was July 20.
Theo Douglas is a staff writer for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes covering municipal, county and state governments, business and breaking news. He has a Bachelor's degree in Newspaper Journalism and a Master's in History, both from California State University, Long Beach.