California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today announced the appointment of Teresa (Teri) M. Takai as the state chief information officer.
"Two years ago, I introduced my Strategic Growth Plan to rebuild and improve California's crumbling infrastructure," said Schwarzenegger, "but our state's infrastructure isn't limited to the physical roads, bridges and levees that need repair. We also have to expand and improve California's technology to meet our future needs. Teri is the perfect person to do that. She has over 30 years of experience in this field and possesses the vision necessary to make our great state a leader in the effective use of information technology."
Takai has served as director of the Michigan Department of Information Technology (MDIT) since 2003, and also serves as the state's chief information officer. In this position, she has restructured and consolidated Michigan's resources by merging the state's information technology into one centralized department to service 19 agencies and over 1,700 employees. Additionally, during her tenure at the MDIT, Takai has led the state to being ranked number one four years in a row in digital government by the Center for Digital Government.
Prior to going into state service, Takai worked for the Ford Motor Company for 30 years, where she led the development of the company's information technology strategic plan. Takai also held positions in technology at EDS and Federal-Mogul Corp. She is past president of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and currently serves as practitioner chair of the Harvard Policy Group on Network-Enabled Services and Government. Takai was named "Public Official of the Year" by Governing magazine in 2005.
Takai, 59, of Detroit, earned a Master of Arts degree in management and a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from the University of Michigan. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $175,000, according to a release from the Governor's Office. Takai is a Democrat.
Kenneth D. Theis, deputy director for the Michigan Department of Information Technology will step into the Michigan CIO post vacated by Takai.
Takai discussed the transition with Government Technology.
GT: What do you consider to be your most important accomplishments in Michigan?
Takai: I think first and foremost would be establishing a consolidated IT department in Michigan that is closely aligned with the Governor's objectives and aligned with the business needs of all the agencies. I am proud that we have been able to use technology to improve the way citizens in Michigan interact with their state government while at the same time reducing the cost of ... technology for the services that we provide. Finally, I am pleased with the success we have had in reaching out beyond the boundaries of state government by partnering with local government and private partners to bring improved services to the citizens.
GT: You worked very closely with Governor Granholm in Michigan. How important was that to your success there, and do you believe that will translate well into to how California's IT is managed?
Takai: The success of any state government IT organization is really only as good as the organization's relationship with the business objectives of the state. Here in Michigan, we've been successful in linking IT to the business objectives of the state. Governor Schwarzenegger has an
aggressive plan to expand and improve California's technology and he is dedicated to utilizing IT to support and transform California's government services. I look forward to the role I will play in making that happen.
GT: What do you believe to be some of California's major IT challenges?
Takai: Obviously, I'll be able to better answer that question once I get there and learn even more. California has a strong history of successful IT projects. Going forward, it will be essential to build on that success and the work that's been started by Clark Kelso to ensure that all of California's IT organizations are moving forward in unison to meet the objectives of the Governor.
GT: What was it that convinced you to accept the position of California CIO? Was there some opportunity or possibility that you particularly wanted to take on?
Takai: Governor Schwarzenegger's commitment to ensuring IT plays a key role in California state government was a big attraction for me. My role as CIO in Michigan represented the first time for me in the public sector. There is a certain feeling of satisfaction in public service that can't be found in the private sector. I am excited about the role I can play in using technology to make life better for the residents of California.
GT: California like many states, has many old COBOL legacy systems and in years past attempts to upgrade them have been unsuccessful or very costly. Now many of the COBOL programmers are retiring. What do you think is a workable approach to solving these legacy system problems?
Takai: The approach to solving this problem is not simple. There will be a need to selectively replace these legacy systems and a corresponding strategy needed to replace the valuable state employees who will be retiring.
GT: Since leaving the private sector to work for the state of Michigan, what have you learned about government IT that surprised you?
Takai: I have a much greater appreciation for the dedication and talent shown by state employees. In Michigan, we have faced difficult challenges and the most difficult state budget crisis in history and the state workforce stood tall and continued to deliver outstanding service to Michigan citizens and businesses.
GT: Is there some message that you would like to give to all the IT staff in California state government?
Takai: I am excited and thrilled to join the IT staff in California and take on the position of CIO. I look forward to supporting Governor Schwarzenegger's initiatives and to working with staff there to make it happen. I look forward to working with the Cabinet, the Legislature, and the many private partners in California as we all work together to move California forward.