More than six years into his tenure as CIO of Tennessee, Mark Bengel finds himself still enthralled with the challenges before him. He remains focused on the goal of improving his state’s efficiency and bottom line.

Over the past few years, he led efforts to virtualize computing and data storage and strengthen state IT infrastructure. Bengel is implementing a single phone system for all state government agencies, which he estimates will save Tennessee approximately $70 million over the next decade.

Bengel is also waist-deep in trying to address the IT talent shortage many public-sector technology offices are facing in the wake of retirements and competition from private tech companies. Over the next five years, more than 40 percent of state employees in Tennessee will be eligible to retire. So Bengel’s working closely with state human resources personnel to figure out how to recruit top technologists and not lose them to the private sector.

Why does public service still drive Bengel? He said he gets to “work with big toys to solve big problems and make a really big difference if done right.” But Bengel knows his success in the state also is a result of the support he’s had over the years.

“I’m blessed in having a business-savvy administration that understands the connection between effective IT and effective government,” Bengel said. “But my most important role is to be an effective communicator with executive leadership and to bridge the gap between IT and business.”

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Brian Heaton  |  Senior Writer

Brian Heaton is a senior writer for Government Technology. He primarily covers technology legislation and IT policy issues. Brian started his journalism career in 1998, covering sports and fitness for two trade publications based in Long Island, N.Y. He's also a member of the Professional Bowlers Association, and competes in regional tournaments throughout Northern California and Nevada.