Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has appointed a replacement for outgoing Commissioner Tom Baden, the state’s top technology official, who announced his retirement last month due to health reasons.
Dayton announced at a press conference on Jan. 24 that Brig. Gen. Johanna Clyborne will begin serving as commissioner of Minnesota Information Technology Services (MNIT) and state chief information officer (CIO) effective Feb. 2.
Baden, a 36-year state employee whom Dayton appointed CIO in January 2015, announced on Dec. 28 that he will retire to recover from “unforeseen complications stemming from some health issues,” according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. His last day will be Feb. 2.
Clyborne is director of the joint staff for the Minnesota National Guard, and also advises the Office of the Adjutant General on joint matters for 13,000 soldiers and airmen, the governor's office said in a news release.
She is also a founding partner of the Shakopee, Minn.-based law firm Brekke, Clyborne and Ribich, where the practice concentrations include family law, military pensions and federal benefits.
The brigadier general said in a statement that cybersecurity will continue to be a key focus for her at MNIT, noting that “cybersecurity threats on public websites and technology systems have increased significantly over the past several years.”
“MNIT Services plays a vital role in keeping Minnesotans safe and secure online, and we will continue doing all we can to deliver on that important responsibility with the resources and expertise we have at the department,” she added.
The first woman to command a brigade and to obtain the rank of brigadier general in the Minnesota Army National Guard, Clyborne will continue to work at the National Guard.
"Johanna Clyborne will serve as Commissioner of Minnesota IT Services in her civilian capacity. She will additionally continue her service to our state and nation in her capacity with the National Guard," Cambray Crozier, MNIT's director of communications said via email.
In a statement, Dayton cited Clyborne’s “exceptional” leadership and said he’s confident that residents will be “very well-served by her strong leadership.”
“General Clyborne’s extensive experience in organizational management, operations, and cybersecurity have prepared her well for the unique challenges of this critically important position. I am grateful to her for accepting this challenge,” Dayton said.
The state and Clyborne — a combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where she received the Bronze Star — emphasized in the news release that her top priority will be resolving ongoing issues with the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS).
Clyborne “made clear today her strong commitment to fixing ongoing technical challenges” with the state’s new vehicle license and registration system, the governor's office said.
The brigadier general called MNLARS an urgent issue in a statement:
“Right now, there is no service that more urgently requires our time, attention and expertise than MNLARS. Important improvements have already been made to the system in recent months, and that progress must continue. We will not rest until we get this project done right, and continue to provide excellent service to the people of Minnesota.”
MNLARS, first funded by the state Legislature in 2008, has cost the state at least $90 million — but has significantly underperformed since its debut in July.
During a state Senate Committee on Transportation, Finance and Policy hearing on MNLARS, on Nov. 15, lawmakers heard from registration officials and automobile sales industry representatives that the launch had been handled badly and was costing residents, the state and dealers money while impeding the sale, licensing and registration of vehicles.
Given concerns about MNLARs, lawmakers in November questioned whether the state would be able to deliver Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses and ID cards in time to meet an extended federal deadline of Oct. 10, 2018.
Two weeks after that hearing, the state announced it would spend $26 million to hire Colorado company FAST Enterprises, which has stood up similar systems for 11 other states, to “provide the software, implementation services, conversion and training for Minnesota’s driver’s license IT system."
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.