Minnesota’s first-ever CIO will be leaving his post on Dec. 15, wrapping up five years of service in which he helped save the state $200 million by standardizing and consolidating hardware and software acquisition.

The announcement about Gopal Khanna’s departure came out of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s office Tuesday. Since his appointment in 2005, Khanna has led the Office of Enterprise Technology, overseeing statewide IT planning, budgeting and program execution, and advising the governor on strategies to enhance internal reform to better serve state citizens.

“Gopal is a nationally recognized visionary with a tireless commitment and passion for good government,” Pawlenty said in a release. “Gopal has led our efforts to manage information technology as an enterprise program and leveraged public-private partnerships to make government more efficient, effective and citizen-centric.”

With the November’s gubernatorial races coming up, and many governors not seeking re-election, a number of state CIOs will be stepping down in the next few months. This week, Tony Tortorice, Washington state’s CIO and Department of Information Services director, announced his plans to resign in mid-October after little more than a year on the job. Rather than wait until the new year, Khanna has also decided to resign early.

“With the term coming to an end, I believe over the next few months I’ll be able to fulfill the rest of the initiatives that need to be launched and completed,” Khanna said. “I wanted to set a timeline to focus on priorities that are still on my radar screen.”

Pawlenty appointed Khanna in 2005 as part of an internal government reform agenda to enhance the state’s IT, grant management, purchasing, licensing, building codes and property management operations. The state CIO position was created to provide leadership for state government’s information and telecommunications technology resources and policies, as well as serve as the governor’s key technology adviser.

During his tenure, Khanna started a number of initiatives, including efforts pushing cyber-security and shared services. He also serves as chairman of the Commission on Service Innovation, a first-in-the-nation initiative that will recommend restructuring and further improvements to the overall delivery of government services.

“Any transformation that government undertakes is going to be a multi-year, multi-jurisdictional, collaborative agenda,” Khanna said. “We have a blueprint for the state to follow for the next 10 years. The next administration should be well positioned to take advantage of all that work that’s been done and what we’ve accomplished.”

A former president (2008-09) of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO), Khanna previously served in the administration of former President George W. Bush, where he held several positions including CIO and chief financial officer of the U.S. Peace Corps in Washington, D.C. Prior to his government service, Khanna held several corporate executive positions.

Although Khanna does not yet know what he plans to do next, he doesn’t envision much of a departure from his current line of work.

“My sweet spot is at the intersection of IT, government and business,” he said. “In that space, I believe I can continue to contribute and add value.”

Russell Nichols  |  Staff Writer