Passing the Torch to a New Class

With three dozen gubernatorial elections this year, a sea change is on the horizon for state CIOs.

by / June 2018
Nevada CIO Michael Dietrich is part of the incoming class of state tech leaders. Government Technology/David Kidd

The theme of this month’s issue is transformation stories. It’s the kind of topic that doesn’t tie us to a particular area of government IT. We just looked for big ideas with similarly big impacts, or the potential for them — not just cleaning up processes around the edges. Thankfully, there were a number of ready examples, which you’ll find on the pages that follow.

But beyond the stories in this magazine lies a parallel sea change taking place within the offices of state CIOs across the country. At the National Association of State Chief Information Officers midyear conference in Baltimore at the end of April, they mapped the changes in state tech leadership for all of 2017 and so far in 2018.

This year, as of press time, there have been eight state CIO changes — either a CIO left his or her position, a new one was named, or both. In 2017, there were 14 of those changes. And of the 36 states and three territories with gubernatorial elections this year, 18 will take place in jurisdictions without an incumbent in the race. And while a few chief information officers are able to successfully navigate a change in administration (the odds go up if the political party doesn’t change), more often than not, a new governor means a new CIO.

So as the facts clearly demonstrate, a transformation in state CIO offices is underway. Several veteran state tech chiefs now in place are likely nearing the end of their tenures. Keep reading Govtech.com for news on when they announce their next moves.

Tennessee CIO Mark Bengel holds the current record, in the post since 2007. Ushered in on roughly the same timetable as the current governors of their state in 2011 is another group of long-serving CIOs: Ohio’s Stu Davis, Mississippi’s Craig Orgeron, Georgia’s Calvin Rhodes, Connecticut’s Mark Raymond and New Mexico’s Darryl Ackley.

The clock is busily ticking for all of them as they work to complete projects they’ve spent significant portions of their respective tenures on. Davis remarked at a recent event that he’s focused on getting things in order for the next occupant of the CIO office in Ohio. Ackley told us recently, “We’re just trying to bring a lot of things home, finish strong, sprint to the end on a number of initiatives.”

The average tenure of a state CIO hovers at about two years, and these leaders have far surpassed that. But as we reflect on their many accomplishments in consolidation, cybersecurity, data analytics and citizen service delivery, it’s clear there’s a talented class of CIOs waiting in the wings to usher in a fresh wave of skills and ideas.

Newly appointed CIO for Nevada Michael Dietrich was drawn back to the public sector after starting his career as a teacher, subsequently spending most of his time in private industry. “I would love to attract more folks from the private sector, some of the bright minds that are working on these technologies that we’re talking about into public service,” he told Government Technology recently. “I already feel that energy of being able to give back to the public, give back to the state. And that’s the message for me. It’s the power of public service.”

We look forward to seeing who joins him in the months ahead.

Noelle Knell Editor

Government Technology editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.