California IT Leaders Honored at CIO Academy

Awards were given for CIO of the Year, CTO of the Year, and two individuals were inducted into the newly created California Hall of Fame for Technology.

by / February 8, 2013

California government’s annual IT leadership award ceremony took place on Thursday with the spotlight on 26 individuals who have contributed greatly to state programs within the last year, and in some cases over the course of several decades (photo of winners above by Bill Foster,    

At the 10th annual CIO Academy, awards were given for Chief Information Officer of the Year, Chief Technology Officer of the Year, and two individuals were inducted into the newly created California Hall of Fame for Technology. A special award was also presented to State and Consumer Services Agency CIO Andrew Armani who originally came up with the concept of the CIO Academy in 2002.

Mike Howland (center) receives CIO of the Year award at CIO Academy on Feb. 7, 2013. Photo by Bill Foster,

Mike Howland, former EDD chief information officer and chief deputy director, was selected as Chief Information Officer of the Year.  Howland took over the CIO position at the peak of the recession when EDD was in the midst of the highest workload ever for the program.  “Under his leadership, EDD has made great strides toward our major modernization across all departmental programs,” remarked EDD Director Pam Harris during the ceremony. Recently retired, Howland spent four decades with the state, serving in several high-profile positions including as CIO of the Department of Social Services.

Department of Water Resources’ Steve Croft was selected as Chief Technology Officer of the Year  for his leadership and work as an enterprise architect  to oversee the development of  “state-of-the-art” systems that are capable of meeting current and future department needs. Croft’s efforts have led to the successful design and implementation of a service oriented architecture (SOA) environment,  a collaboration cloud platform and an enterprise virtual desktop environment.  “Steve’s a highly accomplished, very strategic and a very innovative leader and technology officer,” said Technology Agency Secretary Carlos Ramos.

Steve Kolodney, former director of the California Office of Information Technology under governors Deukmejian and Wilson, was inducted into the California Hall of Fame for Technology.  Kolodney, who in 1995 was appointed CIO for the state of Washington, started his career in California in the 1980s at a time when the state had very few computers.  During his tenure he built the state’s IT program from $350 million to $1 billion annually.  After a stint in the private sector, Kolodney returned to California state service as a retired annuitant for the Board of Equalization and California Technology Agency where he helped develop the state IT strategic plan and methodology to guide IT consolidation.

CGI Vice President Gerri Magers. Photo by Bill Foster,

CGI Vice President Gerri Magers started her IT career as a college student working in the Department of Motor Vehicles in the Pat Brown Administration during the late 1960s. 

She became the first female computer operator at the California Department of Justice.  Years later when she was chief deputy for the Health and Welfare Data Center, Magers was the first to set up benchmark comparisons between state data centers and private data centers which helped keep state costs low.  She also led the first effort with the State Personnel Board, Department of Personal Board and labor organizations in a joint review of  IT classifications that resulted in the restructuring of classifications and salaries for state employees.  Another first, Magers also helped establish the first formal state IT training center which now resides within the Office of Technology Services. Magers is currently the lead executive at CGI working on the Franchise Tax Board’s Enterprise Data to Revenue project.

Thursday’s ceremony also acknowledged major accomplishments by state IT Leaders over the past year.    “Excellence does indeed happen in government, and in the world of IT.   So today is an opportunity to recognize those folks that go above and beyond and have done some outstanding work on behalf of the people of the State of California,” said Secretary Ramos in his opening remarks.

The 2013 CIO Academy IT Leaders are:

  • Kumar Sah, Manager, Business Systems Management, DPM III, State Controller’s Office
  • Ken Ritzman, User Project Manager, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
  • Sirisha Gullapalli, User Project Manager, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
  • Patricia Rogers, Data Processing Manager II, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
  • Daryl Lee, Enterprise Services Section Manager, Franchise Tax Board
  • Jeremy Chau, Supervisor, Network Engineering Unit, Franchise Tax Board
  • Tom Nast, Manager, Portfolio Management and Enterprise Architecture, Franchise Tax Board
  • Frank Wong, Chief Technology Manager, Department of Boating and Waterways
  • Rita Gass, Chief Information Officer, California Conservation Corp
  • Gerri La Rue Higgs, Chief of SAP Center of Services Division, Department of Water Resources
  • Andrea Hoffman, Enterprise Project Manager, Department of Water Resources
  • Gary Dean, IT Service Desk Manager, Department of Food and Agriculture
  • Gary Kirrene, Senior Programmer Analyst, Department of Finance
  • Phil Heinrich, Data Processing Manager III, Department of Health Care Services
  • Raul Ramirez, Chief, Office of Health Information Technology, Department of Health Care Services
  • Ken Buehler, Application Support Branch Chief, Department of Health Care Services
  • Liz Gaffney, Chief, Project Oversight and Initiation Section, California Department of Public Health
  • Cheryl Mello, Manager, Child Support Automation System Project and Procurement Office, Department of Child Support Services
  • Marilyn Clark, Data Processing Manager II, CalPERS
  • Alicia Vargas, Data Processing Manager III, CalPERS
  • Dave Cohen, Data Processing Manager III, Department of Industrial Relations

This story was originally published at

Bill Maile Contributing Writer

Bill Maile has worked as a public information officer and promoter of good government and IT solutions in California. Now he publishes, a blog site and newsletter about the public-sector tech industry in the state. Previously he served as communications director for the state Chief Information Officer and the California Technology Agency. Prior to working at the Agency, he was chief deputy press secretary for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and has spent more than 15 years working in executive offices throughout state government. He has worked for the State Senate, the California Attorney General and Department of Justice, the Secretary of State, Department of Insurance and the State and Consumer Services Agency which oversees the departments of General Services, Consumer Affairs and Fair Employment and Housing, among others.

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