Govtech.com

2014: The Year in People

by / December 4, 2014

2014 saw a lot of movement in public-sector technology leadership. At the state level, much of it seemed to be influenced by the November elections, as new governors were elected in 11 states, poised to usher in their own set of cabinet-level leaders. Others were ripple effects caused by one departure, cascading into many others. A significant number, though, represent brand-new positions in the chain of command — data officers, IT security roles and innovation-related posts, to name a few.

Here’s our recap of some of this year’s major career moves affecting state and local government IT.
 

JANUARY

After serving as CIO of the U.S. General Services Administration since 2007, Casey Coleman took a job as new client executive vice president at AT&T.

Longtime Boston CIO Bill Oates took his open and collaborative style to a new position, overseeing technology for the whole of Massachusetts. He took on several ongoing projects started by former state CIO John Letchford and planned to focus on IT workforce modernization and procurement, along with mobility, social media, cloud computing and big data. Oates has long partnered with other technology chiefs, namely through the G7 group of big-city CIOs. Oates also embraced that theme in August with the Government Innovation Competition, a $50,000 contest launched with startup accelerator MassChallenge designed to get startups working on public-sector problems. Oates’ tenure could be cut short, however, given the victory of Republican Charlie Baker over Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, who tapped Oates to fill the CIO role.
 

FEBRUARY

Peter Marx was appointed Los Angeles’ first chief innovation technology officer, charged with improving the MyLA311 service, upgrading city websites and applying data sharing and analysis to increase government performance.

The third CEO in Microsoft’s 40-year history has been described as a “cloud man.” Before taking the reins of the company, Satya Nadella headed Microsoft’s cloud computing division and business enterprise units, which quietly earned a stellar reputation from big customers, including government CIOs. An internal memo from July showed he was spreading cloud thinking companywide: Nadella wrote that Microsoft’s core is evolving from devices and services to be a productivity and platform company in a mobile-first and cloud-first world.

Detroit is arguably in poor shape, but CIO Beth Niblock said she was ready for the challenge when she moved from overseeing IT for Kentucky’s Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government to the Motor City on Feb. 24. Niblock visited Detroit while still working for Louisville along with a group of civic leaders, entrepreneurs and government officials put together by the White House. During that visit, something clicked for her, Niblock said — all those talented people who wanted to solve a big problem reminded her of why she got involved with government in the first place. Niblock is starting with the basics so she and her team can support Mayor Mike Duggan’s Plan of Adjustment, a 440-page blueprint detailing how the city will move forward.

Michigan Budget Director John Nixon, who was widely considered one of the nation’s tech-savviest state budget officers, stepped down in February to take a top position at the University of Utah. Appointed in January 2011 by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Nixon had an immediate impact. Within six months, he had rebalanced the state budget and helped Snyder fashion a sweeping tax-reform package that became law. He also formed a strong and productive partnership with state CIO David Behen, which led to the approval of nearly $50 million in ongoing funding in Michigan’s budget for technology upgrades. Behen succeeded Nixon as director of the state’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget and retained his CIO duties. Snyder’s deputy chief of staff, John Roberts, became Michigan’s new budget director.

Joy Bonaguro was named San Francisco’s first chief data officer (via a Twitter post) in February with the goal of unifying data standards across the city and propelling open data efforts wherever and whenever possible. To accomplish that task, Bonaguro calls upon her experience as a policy expert with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and U.S. Department of Energy. She authored the city’s new Strategic Open Data Plan, which plots goals along a three-year timeframe, with top priority placed on enriching the city’s open data by making DataSF more than just a repository for government transparency.
 

MARCH

On March 18, the Hawaii Senate confirmed Keone Kali as the state’s CIO, replacing Sonny Bhagowalia, who later became the deputy assistant secretary and CIO of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Incoming Gov. David Ige could bring in a new IT leader, however, as Ige has been critical of technology progress under the previous administration.
 

APRIL

FirstNet, the grand vision for a nationwide network enabling first responder interoperability, hired a CIO and CTO in April. Both new hires brought significant networking experience acquired in the private sector. CIO Jim Gwinn held posts at both Verizon Business and MCI before joining FirstNet, where he will be responsible for internal communications and support. Network architecture will
take shape under the direction of
CTO Ali Afrashteh, who will “plan, develop, monitor and coordinate the implementation of all network activities within FirstNet,” according to an agency press release.

Following a late March announcement that he was stepping down as Philadelphia’s chief data officer, Mark Headd went public in April with his new gig as technical evangelist for Accela.

Colorado CIO Kristin Russell shared the news that she would leave the state to lead a government cloud practice for Deloitte.
 

MAY

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio chose a new CIO in May. Anne Roest, formerly the CIO over multiple public safety agencies in New York state, was named city CIO and commissioner of the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

Department of Defense CIO Teri Takai, previously the CIO of both California and Michigan, stepped down from her post in May, although she retains her spot on the FirstNet board of directors.

Following a brief stint as the state’s chief technology officer, Suma Nallapati was named the CIO of Colorado at the end of May, following the departure of Kristin Russell. Nallapati holds degrees in electronics and nuclear physics, and comes from Catholic Health Initiatives, where she oversaw network operations, data centers and end-user computing. In Colorado, she is charged with directing IT services and innovation for executive branch agencies, and working with economic development officials to encourage tech industry growth in the state.
 

JUNE

In the midst of a months-long investigation over alleged contracting improprieties, Baltimore CIO Chris Tonjes resigned, maintaining his innocence of any wrongdoing.

Seattle’s new CTO, Michael Mattmiller, took the helm in late June, bringing experience as an IT consultant, most recently as a cloud strategist for Microsoft.

San Francisco CIO Marc Touitou left the city after more than a year to serve as CIO for the World Health Organization.

Mayor Marty Walsh brought in a new face to lead Boston’s IT efforts in Jascha Franklin-Hodge. Having advised the then-fledgling Code for America in 2009, Franklin-Hodge was also a software developer at AOL and a founder of online fundraising and CRM platform Blue State Digital. Among Blue State Digital’s 500 clients were foreign presidents, the NAACP, the Democratic National Committee and President Barack Obama. “We want to make sure that the whole city benefits from the things that make us an innovation hub,” Franklin-Hodge said in a YouTube video posted by the city as he assumed the role of CIO.
 

JULY

Tim Wisniewski, former director of civic technology for Philadelphia, was named the city’s chief data officer.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed appointed Samir Saini as city IT commissioner. Saini was CIO of the city Housing Authority.

Michigan Chief Security Officer Dan Lohrmann ended a 17-year state government career in July to join Security Mentor, a California-based security training firm. Lohrmann joined Michigan government in 1997, as the state was preparing its computer systems for Y2K, and he ultimately became one of the public sector’s most influential security leaders. Government Technology named Lohrmann one of its Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers in 2009, and he was a Governing magazine Public Official of the Year in 2008. After his initial stint as chief information security officer, Lohrmann spent two years as Michigan’s CTO. He returned to an expanded chief security officer position in 2011, where he was responsible for physical and cyber security for the state.
 

AUGUST

After five years as Delaware CIO, Jim Sills headed back to the banking industry in mid-August. In October, James Collins, director of Delaware’s Division of Professional Regulation, was confirmed as the state’s CIO.

The White House tapped Google exec Mikey Dickerson to lead the U.S. Digital Service, a new internal consulting group launched in August to find and fix troubled federal projects. Dickerson, Google’s former site reliability manager, came to the job with experience — he helped the White House with repairs to HealthCare.gov after its tortured launch in 2013. Dickerson and his small team went to work on a handful of struggling agency projects. Ultimately he hopes to influence how federal agencies perceive project risk and nudge them toward agile development methods. “What convinced me to change and come to the public sector — at least for a little while here —  ­is just the potential to affect people’s lives in a much more profound way than what I had been doing in the past.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti made a bold move to jump-start open data efforts in Los Angeles by naming Code for America co-director Abhi Nemani the city’s first chief data officer. Nemani, who left the civic hacking group earlier in the year, said he intended to make city data more accessible to external civic technologists and more useful to internal city decision-makers. Among other things, Nemani took ownership of a recently launched open-data portal already stocked with several hundred city data sets. “The question for us moving forward is how we derive more impact out of this data,” he said.

With a decade of experience leading technical teams in health care, Colorado’s new CTODavid McCurdy — will try his hand at public service. McCurdy took the job in late August.

Kevin Counihan, director of the Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange, was named the first CEO of the federal HealthCare.gov exchange, a position many demanded after the disastrous rollout of the marketplace.
 

SEPTEMBER

September saw wholesale turnover of top IT leaders in the White House. CTO Todd Park stepped down to become a Silicon Valley-based technology adviser for the Obama administration, charged with recruiting new talent for federal positions. A few weeks later, federal CIO Steven VanRoekel announced he was joining the United States Agency for International Development as its chief innovation officer to help coordinate federal efforts to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. To fill the vacancy left by Park, the White House imported more talent from Google, naming company exec Megan Smith the nation’s new chief technology officer. Lisa Schlosser, a deputy administrator, filled in as interim CIO while the administration considered VanRoekel’s replacement.

Erik Ross, director of the North Carolina Innovation Center, was promoted to chief
digital officer
, a first for the state.

Minerva Tantoco, CTO of Swiss financial services firm UBS, was named New York City’s first chief technology officer.
 

OCTOBER

Within days of each other, two of the nation’s longest-tenured women state CIOs announced their departure. Texas CIO Karen Robinson announced her retirement after five years as the state’s top technology official, and Arkansas CIO Claire Bailey stepped down after eight years of leading IT efforts in her state. Robinson, former director of Administration and Technology to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, was named state CIO in 2009 and immediately faced the task of restructuring a faltering plan to consolidate and outsource state data centers. Ultimately Robinson ended the $863 million deal with IBM and awarded a handful of restructured data center contracts to a new group of vendors. She also led efforts to modernize the state government portal and catalog legacy state computer systems. Bailey was appointed in 2006 to lead Arkansas’ cabinet-level IT agency. She oversaw deployment of the Arkansas Wireless Information Network, a statewide interoperable radio system for first responders. Bailey also brokered an agreement with Facebook allowing for broader use of the social platform by state governments. She was named one of Government Technology’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers in 2011.

Anthony Schlinsog, chief information technology officer of Kansas, resigned after three years in the role.
 

NOVEMBER

The mid-term elections could lead to a shakeup of state CIOs. Voters in 36 states cast ballots for governor in the election, and at least 11 states (Vermont’s governor will be decided by the legislature in January) will have a new elected executive in 2015. The recently elected governors will probably enter the office with new faces and policy changes — both of which could change priorities for IT leaders and the current roster of state CIOs.

Startup veteran and Harvard Business School alum Lauren Lockwood was named Boston’s inaugural chief data officer on Nov. 13, and San Diego named its inaugural chief data officer,
Maksim Pecherskiy, on the 21st.
 

DECEMBER

Though December has just begun, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo already has announced that former Girl Scouts CIO Maggie Miller will begin as his CIO on Dec. 8, and Minnesota CIO Carolyn Parnell, who's held the position since 2011, will resign on Jan. 5. And on Dec. 8, San Francisco's acting CIO Miguel Gamino became the city's permanent CIO. In the role, he says he looks forward to developing more public Wi-Fi and changing the organization's service culture.