Gov. Ruth Ann Minner is responsible for giving Delaware CIO Tom Jarrett that almost impossible first assignment: Get a brand-new, Cabinet-level department running in two years.
She knew something had to change in the state, and she made it a priority.
"Reforming how Delaware uses technology was one of my first orders of business as governor," Minner said. "Early in my first term, my second executive order was to establish a task force to 'fix' our Office of Information Systems, which was not providing the technology services our state government needed."
The task force was made up of elected officials, government officials, and most importantly, Delaware citizens working in the private technology sector, she said, and the task force recommended that the former state IT organization be completely dissolved and rebuilt from the ground up.
"The key was to rebuild our IT agency, not as a typical civil-service agency, but more similar in structure to the private sector, with performance-based pay and salaries based on market conditions," Minner said. "This has tremendously increased the talent pool within our IT organization and has made it the envy of many other state agencies."
None of this would have happened if Minner had not acted on the recommendations of the task force. Her office used the results of the task force as the foundation of IT reform legislation that the state's General Assembly passed into law.
As many states have found out the hard way, the executive and legislative branches agreeing on just about anything is difficult enough, let alone on a radical restructuring of a state agency.
Delaware's small geographic size, coupled with its strategic location near the East Coast's major cities, provides the state with unique opportunities in the technology environment, Minner said.
"Although our population is relatively small, we have a highly skilled and educated technology work force, including many who opt for early retirements and second careers in state government," she said. "Our Legislature is smaller than most -- with 62 members -- and the collaboration between our corporate leaders, legislators and community activists is made easier since most know each other on a first-name basis. It is still relatively easy to bring statewide decision-makers together quickly when necessary."
Congratulations to this year's group of "Doers, Dreamers and Drivers," who appear in the March issue of Government Technology magazine.