Sen. Ted Kanavas -- who spent 12 years in the software industry before being elected to the Wisconsin Senate in 2001 -- uses his experience and knowledge to reshape Wisconsin's IT landscape.
Kanavas is committed to creating a more streamlined statewide IT infrastructure and pivoting that into a healthy fiscal policy. "Wisconsin is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on IT, and we have to know where everything is and what we have on hand," he said. "Streamlining our IT will put us on a path to fiscal sanity."
Part of that process, Kanavas said, is changing the culture of government. "Government's biggest challenge is the idea that the state cannot continue down the bureaucratic pathway. It must end the mindset that government is just government and cannot be run like a business. Government needs to get away from the idea that all state agencies and entities are separate when it comes to IT."
The big hurdle to that end is a lack of knowledge about information infrastructure and how to run a business, Kanavas said. "Most state employees have not spent much time outside of public service. They have gotten trapped in a culture where there is little concern about the state going bankrupt."
Kanavas has pushed to make Wisconsin one of the nation's top 10 states in terms of broadband deployment, which he views as a key ingredient for economic growth.
Prior to becoming senator, he and two friends founded Premier Software Technologies, which provided middleware solutions to some of the IT industry's biggest names. In five years, the company grew into to a multimillion-dollar entity and was eventually sold.
Kanavas relishes the problem-solving aspect of government and takes great pride in his business background. "When a person encounters a problem with government, they feel as though the deck is stacked against them because they are facing such a large bureaucracy," he said. "My position enables me to navigate the system from the inside and help them out."
Congratulations to this year's group of "Doers, Dreamers and Drivers," who appear in the March issue of Government Technology magazine.