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Government Technology Magazine's Top 25: Dreamers, Doers and Drivers

Top 25 People who played key roles in strengthening government operations in their jurisdictions and improving the services delivered to citizens.

In any field, there are a few individuals who can't leave well enough alone. They continually test new ideas and attempt to harness new technologies. These pioneers face perhaps their greatest challenge in state and local government -- working under the unforgiving glare of public scrutiny and battling bureaucracies often famous for resisting change.

Yet the 25 people honored here overcame those obstacles and used technology to push forward the mission of government. Their accomplishments range from subtle yet vital developments in IT management to transformational events, such as launching some of the first government Web sites.

The members of Government Technology's Top 25 for 2002, listed here in no particular order, played key roles in strengthening government operations in their jurisdictions and improving the services delivered to citizens. On a larger scale, their innovations have helped advance the art of applying technology to government service, changing the landscape of public-sector IT.

Dianah Neff
Chief Information Officer

Before the dot-com bust, California's Silicon Valley was a booming hotbed for startup technology firms riding the PC wave -- a wave that started Dianah Neff's technology career. Palo Alto, Calif., took a gamble in 1986 and hired Neff based on her knowledge of PCs and networks to run the city's information resources department. "They wanted to do e-mail along with a few other innovative things," Neff said. "For years, I had been involved with the first wave of startups and venture capital funding for the new PC era and wanted a new opportunity with a public commitment."

In 1994, Palo Alto celebrated its 100th anniversary by highlighting some new innovations in technology to serve the community. Neff met with some business leaders who demonstrated a new concept -- the World Wide Web. She immediately saw its potential and worked with the community to figure it out, which resulted in the nation's first city Web site.

"The introduction of the Internet changed forever the way governments relate to their citizens," she said. The Internet stripped away layers of bureaucracy that kept citizens from government, changed the nature of transactions and sparked a drive to integrate government systems.

Just as the Internet has changed and grown, Neff also has moved on, launching numerous innovative projects during her journeys through government. She worked with San Bernardino County, Calif., on a joint venture with local businesses and the school district to make online public-sector information more relevant to the community. In San Diego, she launched Bandwidth Bay, which used GIS to map the city's 70,000 miles of fiber-optic cable.

Today, Neff blends her knowledge of technology with her strategic-planning expertise to run IT operations for Philadelphia; she is determined to make life better and safer for residents of the City of Brotherly Love. The key is integration. "The public sector tends to keep its systems the longest. So we have to find some way to extend the life [of the systems], or use the Web, GIS and wireless technology around our legacy systems. That's the challenge."

--Tod Newcombe, Features Editor

Brenda Decker
Division of Communications

Brenda Decker started at Nebraska's Division of Communications 25 years ago as the departmental secretary and slowly but diligently worked her way up the ranks. For the past four years, she has been director of the state's small but active communications department. Decker reached the top through hard work, honing her skills as an administrator and showing a willingness to work with others.

"In some ways, I ended up in telecommunications by accident," she said. "But at the same time, my strengths lie in how the department functions." Decker enjoys being a public servant, and said she's always liked to solve problems, a major requirement of telecommunications agencies. She also cited both her willingness to work with other agencies and to partner with vendors to get things done cost effectively.

These same attributes help Decker as president of the National Association of State Telecommunications Directors (NASTD) during a time of transition and upheaval. No longer an association dealing with just phone issues, NASTD recast itself as a technology organization aimed at working more closely with state CIOs and the private sector, renaming itself The Association for Telecommunications & Technology Professionals Serving State Government. During this transition, Decker has been at the helm, encouraging members to embrace the future.

"Nobody lives in a vacuum anymore," she said. "The world of telecommunications has gone global. If I've got an issue going on in the state of Nebraska and I'm looking for a solution, I first turn to the people dealing with this in other states because somebody, somewhere has run into the same problem." More than likely, other NASTD members turn to Brenda for help as well.

Like other state telecom directors, Decker is trying to enable Nebraska's operations with new technologies, such as wireless and enterprise applications, while at the same time grappling with today's fiscal realities. Despite limitations, Decker refuses to see the glass as half-empty. "Quite frankly, tight budget times are an opportunity to do things differently," she said. "It's an opportunity to say, 'Are there ways to look for new efficiencies, rather than throw our hands up and ask what do we do next?'"

--Tod Newcombe, Features Editor

Brian Moura
Assistant City Manager
San Carlos, Calif.

Taking a college computer course in the 1970s meant students couldn't take their work home; mainframes didn't move so students only programmed in computer labs.

But Brian Moura knew there was another way. Living in the San Francisco Bay area, he heard of people creating computers small enough to sit on a desk, called personal computers, or PCs. Before long, Moura had one at home helping compile programs.

Finding new solutions to intractable problems has driven Moura throughout his public-service career, principally for San Carlos, Calif., where he is the assistant city manager. Moura once talked his way into a demonstration of the first laser printer and immediately grasped the machine's significance.

He also understood the significance of the graphical user interface well before its widespread acceptance. Convinced of its importance for government, Moura volunteered as a Windows beta tester during its infancy. He attended a Microsoft meeting where all software users met in a single hotel room; Steve Ballmer, president of Microsoft, poured drinks and someone remarked that one day Windows would be so big, the next all-user meeting would fill the hotel. Brian's response was that it would be bigger, and so it was.

But Moura's biggest impact is in city government. Despite its 25,000 population, San Carlos was the second city in the country to operate its own Web site. Moura leveraged partnerships with technology firms to wire city schools with computer networks before most officials thought to install stand-alone PCs. He built up online services and was instrumental in getting software firms to design permitting applications with Web-based features. The city received many awards for its innovative use of technology under Moura's direction; although Moura credits the mayor's support in fostering an open attitude toward San Carlos' use of technology.

Even with tight budgets, Moura sees no problem starting new technology projects. "You can't sell technology on how it's going to save money or jobs," he said. "You've got to convince government leaders that it's worth investing in for better service and greater productivity."

It also helps if, like Moura, you refuse to take no for an answer.

-- Tod Newcombe, Features Editor

Courtney Harrington
Chief Information Officer

Living and working on an island thousands of miles from the mainland requires a fair amount of self-sufficiency; opportunities in insular Hawaii don't arise the same as in the lower 48 states. That may explain why Courtney Harrington, Honolulu's CIO, doesn't seem ordinary.

His startup of one of the first virtual companies in the country -- when Compuserve was the best online network available -- and his time as a local news anchor, while simultaneously working for the previous mayor and writing software programs on the side gave Harrington skills and confidence to rise above Hawaii's physical isolation, creating one of the most digitally advanced cities in the country. Honolulu ranked No. 1 in the annual Digital Cities survey twice, and the city's Web site also ranked first among cities with populations between 250,000 and 500,000 by the Civic Resource Center in 2001.

Harrington's key to success was not hiring expensive consultants or a software firm that promised a flashy Web site -- it was performing basic IT management and including well-planned IT infrastructure. For local governments, that means workflow and content management. Honolulu converted nearly 200 paper forms into electronic format and re-engineered the workflow, saving millions of tax dollars. The city then added applications that delivered value to both citizens and the city, such as an economic development Web site with tools to analyze marketability of new business locations around Honolulu. For just $30,000, the city gave businesses digital maps and online data to help them decide where to build or expand. It's typical of what Harrington and his staff -- long on technology skills and vision, and short on financial resources -- can put together.

Having done numerous stints in the private sector, including running his own company and his media work, he knows there's nothing like the public sector. "Working in public service is fun because you get to wear so many different hats," he said. "I've got 21 different departments; each is like a separate company that I've got to help. That makes my job interesting."

-- Tod Newcombe, Features Editor

Jean Hoefer Toal
Chief Justice
South Carolina Supreme Court

Chief Justice Jean Hoefer Toal is the guiding force behind South Carolina's Judicial Automation Project, an ambitious plan to modernize state courts by integrating technology into all court levels -- from the Supreme Court to the Magistrate Court.

The first phase of the estimated five-year project began with a Strategic Technology Plan in 2000, advancing to various implementations the following year and beyond.

"We're a small, rural state and our biggest challenge was to link our 46 counties, each of which has its own book of cases and book of business, to link them into a really, truly unified court system so that cases could be managed all across the jurisdictions, both the larger and the smaller rural counties," Toal said.

Before serving on the Supreme Court, Toal practiced law for 20 years. She was elected as an Associate Justice in 1988, was re-elected in 1996 and was installed as Chief Justice in March 2000 -- the first and only woman to serve in that capacity in South Carolina.

Toal served in the state House of Representatives for 13 years and was the first woman to chair a standing committee there. Her legislative service included floor leadership of complex legislation in the fields of constitutional law, utilities regulation, criminal law, structure of local government, budgetary matters, structure of the judicial system, corporate law, tort claims, workers' compensation, environmental law, and banking and finance legislation.

She is adamant about the necessity of a "connected" criminal justice system. "Post 9-11, we all know what the power of linked information is in keeping up with issues of public safety, and the tragedies that occurred recently in Virginia and Maryland with the snipers again illustrate the necessity in this era of high communication and mobility to have an information system for our criminal justice system that is really linked," she said. "We cannot really combat what's out there unless we have a system that transfers information in a pretty transparent way between jurisdictions -- and that's both federal and state -- and between jurisdictional boundaries within the states, and that's my goal for our system."

-- Jim McKay, Justice Editor

Nick Dedier
Chief Information Officer
California Division of Criminal Justice Information Services

Under Nick Dedier, CIO of California's Division of Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS), California implemented the electronic collection and search for fingerprints in a statewide database.

"Now you can get background checks done on individuals in a matter of hours, where it used to take 30 to 45 days," Dedier said. "In addition, law enforcement has the capability when they arrest somebody to positively identify the individual before the individual is released from custody, and the potential is there to tie them to some other types of crimes."

Dedier and California overcame significant challenges in creating the database, such as obtaining funding for the project's statewide implementation and pushing for industry standards.

The next big hurdle Dedier sees is creating an integrated criminal justice system. "We have a number of disparate systems throughout the environment, and as they begin to migrate, [the challenge is] developing and listing standards to ensure we have an integrated approach so all agencies that currently own a piece of this data will share it in a collaborative environment."

Dedier also presided over implementation of the CAL-photo project, a collaborative effort between the state's Department of Justice and DMV that gave law enforcement immediate access to a cache of driver's license photos, which previously took hours or days to obtain.

Dedier was appointed director of the CJIS Division in March 1996. He was named CIO of the reorganized CJIS Division with expanded responsibilities, including centralization of IT services throughout the department, in March 2002.

-- Jim McKay, Justice Editor

Debra Bowen

Debra Bowen is a California state senator who has long understood what technology can do for government. In 1993, she authored the bill that put California's legislative information online and in 1995, wrote the California Digital Signature Act, the nation's first law allowing state agencies to use digital signatures and basic encryption procedures.

Bowen was the first member of California's Legislature with an e-mail address, something now considered absolutely essential, but she had to fight for it. Bowen, then a member of California's Assembly, needed special permission from the Assembly Rules Committee for her official state e-mail address and special permission to have it printed on the business cards of her staff members.

"For me, technology has always been a means to an end, not the end in and of itself," Bowen said. "There's no point in taking a file cabinet full of paper and putting it on a computer just because we have the technology to do it. There is, however, value in turning that file cabinet of paper into electrons if it's part of a larger business re-engineering process that makes government smarter, more efficient and above all, easy for people to deal with."

She also is actively fighting identity theft in California, and in 2003, introduced a bill that would require government agencies -- including public colleges and universities -- in California to stop using Social Security numbers as public identifiers as a way to prevent identity theft.

-- Shane Peterson, Associate Editor

Gary Locke

Gary Locke's first term as Washington's governor began in 1996; in 2000, voters elected him to his second term. During his time as CEO of the state, Washington has won Government Technology's Digital State award three times in a row.

The state is committed to electronic government, Locke said, despite the economic downturn that threatens many state budgets.

"You have to spend the dollars at some point; that means during difficult financial times, you have to stretch your spending out or slow it down," he said. "But you can't just stop it. If you are always waiting for a better time, it will never happen."

Locke said Washington's success at developing and implementing technology comes from the state adopting sophisticated, long-range, detailed technology plans.

"Even when budgets get tight, we still take the right steps in the right sequence -- but we may take them at a slower pace," he said. "We want to continue the build-out of digital Washington as a prudent, long-term investment."

The biggest technology challenge facing state government is making sure that tomorrow's legacy systems aren't being built today, Locke said, and managing the build-out of state government infrastructure through the coordinated efforts of many entities in government.

All governments face impediments to bringing about technological change, though Locke said such impediments often have little to do with actual technology.

"Our biggest challenge is creating a culture that embraces change," he said. "It is difficult to overlay a new technology onto an existing business process because that existing process supports a way of doing business that will become obsolete with the new technology. We must think through our business goals and existing processes and develop ways to achieve our objectives using new processes and new technology."

-- Shane Peterson, Associate Editor

Greg Jackson
Chief Information Officer

CIO Greg Jackson is a force in Ohio's push toward business-to-business Web transactions. The state already is touting its Ohio Business Gateway as a success. The initiative lets small to medium-size businesses file multiple tax returns from a single Web site. Businesses can file taxes with three different agencies through the one Web site and pay electronically without dealing with agencies independently.

"It's really a significant move toward a more customer-friendly relationship," Jackson said. "We're starting to get agencies to recognize that they have common customers and to start treating them as such instead of dealing with them as individual silos."

As elsewhere, Ohio is battling budget shortfalls, but Jackson sees the budget situation as an opportunity to encourage the development of the state as an enterprise, instead of a collection of individual agencies.

"I'm starting to have discussions with the agencies now about doing more collaborative efforts in building solutions and pooling our funds together," Jackson said. "The budget is always the biggest challenge -- trying to continue our services with less funding. At the same time, it presents a significant opportunity for us to start thinking of the state in terms of the enterprise."

Jackson joined the Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS) in January 2000 as the agency's assistant director and the state's CIO. As assistant director, he oversees the DAS Computer Services Division, which provides statewide technology infrastructure and acquisitions management. Ohio spends approximately $800 million annually on IT and employs more than 2,000 IT professionals.

Jim McKay, Justice Editor

Jane Patterson
Executive Director
North Carolina Rural Internet Access Authority

Jane Patterson continues influencing government IT by serving as executive director of the Rural Internet Access Authority, the group leading the e-NC initiative to connect all North Carolinians, particularly in rural areas, to the Web.

Goals of the e-NC initiative include making local, dial-up Internet access available statewide; providing public Internet access and computer training; and making affordable, high-speed Internet access available statewide.

Patterson sees her contribution to the sustained effort for citizen connectivity as one of the biggest accomplishments in her nearly 40-year career.

"In government you have an opportunity to develop the underlying technology to really move ahead," she said. "It not only enables government to move ahead, it enables citizens and businesses who receive those services to move ahead."

Patterson said most critical to making advances in government is procuring funding, getting various entities to collaborate on various projects and understanding who the constituent is. "To always be attuned to what your ultimate client is and what they think -- that's difficult for government folks," she said. "Is your client the citizen? Is your client the person you report to? Or is your client ultimately the legislature?"

Patterson's impressive list of accomplishments includes being appointed as a member of the United States' National Information Infrastructure Council, recognition in 1995 as one of the top women in computing in the United States, and receiving the Public Innovator Award from the National Academy of Public Administration and the Alliance for Redesigning Government in 1995.

Patterson said that government experience can be applied anywhere.

"I have always said, and I believe this because I've been in government and out of government, that if you can operate inside government you can operate anywhere," she said. "[In government] you are constantly dealing with multitudes of people who think they absolutely know what you are supposed to be doing, and if you can satisfy all those people you can be successful in the corporate world or in the university world."

-- Jim McKay, Justice Editor

Lin Thatcher
Chief Information Officer
Maricopa County, Ariz.

With CIO Lin Thatcher's leadership, Maricopa County, Ariz., has become an archetype for local government justice integration with the development of an IT governance model that facilitates justice integration and creates an enterprise-wide approach to technology throughout the county.

The IT governance model is three-tiered; the enterprise level, consisting of technology or processes that apply across the entire county, at its top. At the bottom are all departmental systems and processes unique to one department only. The "electronic community" is in the middle -- multiple departments come together here if they share one of three things: a common computer system, data toward a common objective or a common horizontal process.

Thatcher said the model has been good enough to stand the test of time. "That three-tier governance model underlies our approach to architecture, our approach to IT policy and funding, and underlies our approach to the way we deliver Web services both on the intranet and the Internet," he said. "I think we have one of the premier IT governance models in the United States that has served us well and has not had to be changed in eight years."

Thatcher said the biggest challenge as CIO is looking at the county horizontally. "That cuts across many jurisdictions, many domains, many sacred cows, if you will," he said. "So to take many departments that deliver services vertically and functionally out of their arenas, and begin to have them think horizontally across the full spectrum of government in terms of reducing waste and inefficiency and hand-offs and other obstacles to modern processes ends up being the biggest challenge."

-- Jim McKay, Justice Editor

Suzanne Peck
Chief Technology Officer
Washington, D.C.

When Suzanne Peck became the District of Columbia's Chief Technology Officer in 1998, communications systems were outdated, agencies were technologically isolated and no Y2K rollover plan existed.

Organizing a team to face those challenges was a challenge in itself. "We were considered to be such an awful place that you could not recruit anyone -- any IT professional -- to work for the District of Columbia," Peck said. "I went to my own network of former colleagues [in the private sector] and said to them in 1998, 'Your nation needs you.'"

Now she leads a team of 100, and of most extraordinary caliber, Peck said. "We have zip turnover, literally, in four years."

Since Peck became CTO, the district installed a common e-mail system, created a CIO certification program to ensure quality technological leadership in its agencies and expanded its Web site to more than 100,000 pages. The DMV's 30-year-old information system was replaced with one that tracks unpaid child support, prior tickets and bad checks, as well as offers DMV services online. Peck and her team consolidated nine data centers into two, which saves the district $1.2 million per year. Since the two remaining centers contain mirrored information, the data can be recovered quickly should a disaster occur.

The Office of the Chief Technology Officer continues to improve the city's communication systems. One emergency preparedness project is a unified communications center -- slated for completion in February 2004 -- comprising 911 and 311 services, emergency management, the mayor's command center and a regional incident command center. The district also is installing a city-owned fiber-optic system called DC-NET, which will provide both landline and wireless voice communications, and save the city one-third of its local telecom and public safety communications costs.

When Peck arrived in the district, she said there was "no basic business process in the city that worked, and none of them had good systematic support. Our goal and our legacy is that when we leave, all basic business processes in the city will work, and they will have good systematic support."

Peck said she lends her vision to the nation's capital with honor. "It is truly an extraordinary honor, and my whole team considers it an extraordinary honor, to serve the capital of the free world."

-- Emily Montandon, Copy Editor

Cathy Cox
Secretary of State

Georgia was first state in the nation to completely overhaul its voting equipment, and did so for accuracy's sake. In the 2000 presidential election, the state lost about 94,000 votes -- a loss proportionally worse than Florida's.

"That was over 3.5 percent of our total votes in 2000," said Secretary of State Cathy Cox, whose initiative made possible the deployment of the modern, uniform electronic voting system in every county. "With replacing all our old voting equipment, our under-vote rate dropped to about 0.9 percent. Tens of thousands of votes are no longer lost."

Cox was re-elected for a second term in 2002, earning more than 61 percent of the vote. She is the first woman to serve as Georgia's Secretary of State.

Last fall, the state's 3,000 precincts used electronic touchscreen voting units -- also a first in the nation. "It was a huge project -- $54 million for the equipment, $4.5 million in voter education efforts," Cox said. "We bought about 20,000 touchscreen units, and Kennesaw [State University] helped us do all the acceptance testing, put the machines through our state certification process, and helped us do training for local election officials and over 10,000 poll workers."

Cox said the project is her biggest accomplishment. "But maybe even more so was working with voters all over the state and preparing them for the election and having them love it," she added. "They're so proud Georgia has finally done something first that's positive, that we led the nation in this effort and really brought voting into the 21st century."

More big plans for Georgia lie ahead. Under Cox's direction, a new state archives facility opens in April 2003 in Clayton County.

She would also like to move toward a system allowing citizens to vote anywhere in the state. "You don't have to go to your neighborhood precinct if we could get our voter list on a computer in all voting places, then you could set up voting election places at a mall, for example," she said. "We mark that you voted at the mall, so you can't vote somewhere else because the system is networked. This would be an easy transition because the machines we have can already do it."

-- Jessica Jones, Managing Editor

Dan Gwadosky
Secretary of State

Although he holds a bachelor's degree in management and a doctorate, Maine Secretary of State Dan Gwadosky is back in school for a master's degree in technology.

"I felt I needed it," he said. "I needed my knowledge base to be in a place where I could be most beneficial to understand the systems I was talking about changing all the time, and encouraging other agencies to do as well."

To enhance customer service and satisfaction, Gwadosky seeks to increase technology use in all areas of his department. He also contributes personally by being a user. "I constantly use our Web sites; I use the state's Web site," he said. "I try to spend a lot of time with my own employees encouraging them to do the same -- to be reviewing, to be mindful of the things we could be enhancing on our own Web sites."

One enhancement is a rapid renewal system that allows motor vehicle registration online, which Gwadosky said is one of the first intergovernmental e-commerce applications in the nation where citizens can interact with two levels of government.

The program initially was piloted in 10 towns, but 28 towns are currently on various levels of testing. "We're going to spend some time attempting to drive some adoption rates up," Gwadosky said. "We want to get additional municipalities on board for that particular service."

Municipalities now trust the Department of the Secretary of State to collect both excise taxes and registration fees, and Gwadosky said they are looking for similar applications for the department to handle. "Property tax collections is something they've inquired of us," he said. "At the same time, some more simple applications like online dog license renewals are something we've been looking at on the municipal level."

The Department of the Secretary of State currently has 12 online transactional services, and Gwadosky said his office continues to look for new applications that will be meaningful to citizens. "We try to find simpler ways to move stuff online," he said. "What I've tried to do personally is encourage our own employees to think like a consumer and think like a citizen."

-- Jessica Jones, Managing Editor

Larry Singer
Former Chief Information Officer

Larry Singer's career has had a unique trajectory. He was a senior manager at Computer Associates International and Texas Instruments, attended Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and was the school's first private-sector member to graduate as a Senior Executive Fellow.

Singer launched Public Interest Breakthroughs, a nonprofit firm that assists states in using IT to help disadvantaged families. In 2000, he became Georgia's first CIO, serving as policy budget adviser to the executive and legislative branches on technology-related issues, as well as overseeing development of IT policy, strategic planning and state technology procurement.

Singer's devotion to enhancing public services through technology generated results in Georgia. He established a governance structure for enterprise management of IT and a new kind of leadership model that helped political and appointed leaders recognize how technology and program delivery within individual agencies is interwoven.

He also helped develop a technology architecture that helps agencies focus on technology applications while showing how that architecture makes technology more reliable and available. More significant results included what Singer called a "revolutionary turnaround" in Georgia's networking -- complete modernization of the state's data center and "a state portal that was second to none in terms of technical capability and leveraging interoperability between systems to create virtual integration between agencies."

Resigning after his boss lost the 2002 gubernatorial election, Singer currently works on different projects but remains committed to serving the public sector. Tough budget times have made technology -- especially e-government -- seem expendable in the eyes of some budget-cutting politicians. But they should take the opposite viewpoint, Singer said. "Investment in technology is more important, not less, right now. In reality, there is no such thing as e-government. It's all about government. Technology is woven into it."

-- Tod Newcombe, Features Editor

Elaine Marshall
Secretary of State
North Carolina

North Carolina's secretary of state said if she had the right answer for accomplishing things during budget crises, she would be secretary of the world.

Rather than just thinking about what that right answer is, however, Elaine Marshall makes what she's already got stretch. "We take what resources we have and reuse software so we don't only use it for one application," she said. "We're using reusable parts of our software right and left."

Marshall, who has been in office since 1997, implemented a database infrastructure called the Knowledge Base System, which four other governments -- Missouri, Kentucky, Mississippi and the Virgin Islands -- also use. The system provides a standard way for citizens to do business with the Secretary of State's Office. It features a comprehensive document management component with imaging and other e-government services for research, such as Uniform Commercial Code records and a corporations database. New to the system is the ordering of Certificates of Existence, which shows companies are bona fide and comply with minimum state requirements.

Within the next 60 days, Chief Technology Deputy Bruce Garner said the department will roll out the ability for limited liability companies and other corporate entities to file annual reports online.

Now Marshall faces the challenge of implementing critical online applications, such as credit card transactions, which require legislative changes.

"We literally have the capacity to do online filing of a variety of things, but our laws need to be brought up to date to make them more contemporary with the type of business environment we're in," she said.

Of her accomplishments, Marshall said she is most proud of serving the people -- wherever they are, whoever they are -- and hearing how the services help.

"It's quite gratifying to be out in public and people come up to me and say, 'I really appreciate what you're doing; you've made my job so much easier by your Web site,' or, 'I can do it at 10 o'clock at night.' It is really satisfying to serve the public 24 by 7 by 365."

-- Jessica Jones, Managing Editor

Larry Knafo
Deputy Commissioner, strategic technology development
Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications
New York City

New York City almost lost the man who rebuilt the city's command and control center following 9-11 -- Larry Knafo left city government prior to the terrorist attacks for a job in the private sector. Fortunately for New Yorkers, Knafo found working for a company didn't compare to working with the country's most populous city.

He is currently deputy commissioner for strategic technology development in the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, but his public-sector career started more humbly. He worked in an ambulance in the Bronx, moved into dispatching, and then worked for New York City's Office of Emergency Management.

While helping build the division from scratch, Knafo discovered the benefits of GIS technology and used it in numerous emergency management applications. Knafo's career furthered when he managed the city's Y2K business continuity concerns. By the time he returned to the public sector, the dot-com craze had spread throughout the city; he was knee-deep in IT, first helping craft an effective city employee intranet and then managing the city's e-government office and portal.

Today, Knafo is helping launch one of the largest, most comprehensive government call center projects, which will dramatically change how the city interacts with its citizens. "It's going to be like having your own personal valet to city services," he explained.

Although Knafo blazed a technology career path in less than 10 years and accomplished numerous goals, nothing will top that fateful September day nearly 18 months ago. He ran on adrenaline and no sleep for three days after the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attacks, laying groundwork for the computer network. He worked round the clock with vendors to provide hardware and with his colleagues as they built applications on the fly, including some GIS programs that helped the fire department fight smoldering blazes in the lower Manhattan ruins.

Knafo's heart remains with helping the city and doing the job he loves. "I'm not going anywhere," he said. "With this job, you can do things that change people's lives."

-- Tod Newcombe, Features Editor

Mark Forman
Associate Director
Information Technology and E-government
Office of Management and Budget

Mark Forman was appointed associate director for information technology and e-government in the Office of Management and Budget on June 14, 2001, serving as the lead e-government executive at the federal level. His responsibilities include leading the development and implementation of federal IT policy and directing the work of the federal CIO Council.

He sees three significant challenges to e-government initiatives involving all levels of government: modernizing government operations using technology, coping with the lack of human capital caused by an aging government work force, and providing adequate IT security.

Government is changing the way it solves problems, Forman said, and part of that change is the improving relationship among federal, state and local government.

"We can't achieve what we need to do without a stronger partnership with state and local government," he said. "That came out very clearly in the E-Government Task Force work. We had a lot of resistance to that, but then Sept. 11 made it clear to everybody that the core functions of government depend on our ability to work together. We know more ways to do that now than ever before."

Forman said work at the federal level to stimulate cross-agency e-government initiatives; efforts to create a federal enterprise architecture; and the buildup of federal Web sites such as, and the recently introduced Free File online tax filing program have been very rewarding.

"That's the kind of e-government innovation that one hopes for, but we've been able to deliver on," he said.

-- Shane Peterson, Associate Editor

Angus King
Former Governor

Angus King, Maine's 71st governor, finished serving his second four-year term in 2003. Voters re-elected King in 1998 by one of the largest margins of victory in Maine's history, and he was one of only two independent governors in the country.

King spearheaded the Maine Learning and Technology Initiative (MLTI), an innovative program that provided laptop computers to approximately 17,000 students in 239 middle schools throughout the state.

"If we can develop the most digitally literate society on earth, the jobs and the prosperity and the opportunities and the options will follow," King said. "I have no doubt of that."

Each school has a wireless network in place for both students and teachers to use. They connect to the Internet through the Maine School and Library Network at near-T1 speeds.

MLTI started in fall 2002, and by fall 2003, both seventh-graders and eighth-graders will receive laptops -- meaning that nearly 33,000 students and 3,000 teachers will use computers from the program.

King said MLTI is generating positive results. Disciplinary problems dropped 75 percent and absenteeism declined by two-thirds within three months of the start of the first MLTI pilot project in spring 2002. He added that students in the program developed a much more positive attitude about their schools and teachers.

Under King's administration, Maine also worked closely with local governments to develop intergovernmental applications. In 2000, the state's Bureau of Motor Vehicles, together with local governments, created the Rapid Renewal Application, which allowed motorists to renew their motor vehicle registration online through the Office of the Secretary of State. Residents could then conduct transactions with state and local government through one Web site.

Under the arrangement, InforME, which manages Maine's state Web site, served as an application service provider for local governments by hosting the Rapid Renewal Application on its servers.

-- Shane Peterson, Associate Edtior

Chris O'Brien
Chief Information Officer

Chris O'Brien was appointed CIO of Chicago in April 2000 and is commissioner of the Department of Business and Information Services (BIS), having joined Chicago in 1998 as the managing deputy CIO in charge of strategic planning.

O'Brien has been part of many of Chicago's IT initiatives. He said he's most proud of two notable achievements: The city's pioneering rollout of a 311 system in 1999, and the development of CivicNet, a public-private partnership to install the most extensive fiber-optic infrastructure in the nation and bring high-speed communications to every neighborhood in the city.

The blueprint for CivicNet is combining communications spending for all major city agencies into a single contract that would be offered to telecoms in exchange for installing fiber-optic cable throughout the city.

To O'Brien, the biggest technological hurdle facing CIOs and government is the proliferation of technology tools now available.

"The big challenge CIOs have is not picking the right tools, but bringing them to market, bringing them to the front line," he said. "Being able to implement tools that are going to add value to your citizens in a cost-effective and timely way is even more important now because there are so many different directions you can go."

Despite that challenge and the many others facing government in today's climate, O'Brien said working in the public sector is much more rewarding than in the private sector.

"Companies don't do what we do; the city of Chicago does everything, and we're not able to pick and choose what markets we want to be in," he said. "You walk across the street and you talk to anybody, your friends or people you don't even know, and you know that in some way they've benefited from what you've been doing."

-- Shane Peterson, Associate Editor

Michael Armstrong
Chief Information Officer
Des Moines, Iowa

The Midwest might not be the first place most would look for a city considered a technology leader. But if anyone wonders why Des Moines, Iowa, ranks so high in the annual Digital Cities survey, sponsored by the Center for Digital Government, they might want to start with CIO Michael Armstrong.

Des Moines has the distinction of being one of the most digitally advanced cities in the country for its size. For Armstrong, part of the reward for achieving such recognition is that technology in local government impacts peoples' lives in ways that don't happen in the private sector.

"You can see the effects of what you do on the community," he said. "There's a vitality to that you can't get elsewhere."

Armstrong's career began at the University of Kentucky. Later, he worked in the purchasing department for the city of Louisville and took up the torch for IT management in 1982. In 1997, at a point in his life where he could have retired and rested on his laurels, he took up a new challenge and moved to Des Moines, becoming the city's CIO.

When working for Louisville, Armstrong led the development of the city's -- and state's -- first municipal Web site. He also helped the city lay down a fiber-optic network and build up the city's distributed PC network when few jurisdictions were contemplating something so bold.

Armstrong brought those same visionary skills to Des Moines, a midwestern city eager to expand its use of technology for operations and service delivery. To date, Armstrong has been instrumental in building another fiber network that links 60 city buildings and moving GIS out of the backroom and onto an enterprise platform so that more workers have access to this invaluable tool. He's also overseen implementation of citywide ERP and CRM systems, of which the latter was rated in the top 10 by the Aberdeen Group.

-- Tod Newcombe, Features Editor

Alan Leidner
Assistant Commissioner
Geographic Information Systems
Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications

Alan Leidner became a New York City employee when John Lindsay was mayor, a subway ride cost 20 cents and maps existed solely on paper. It was 1969 and Leidner, fresh out of college and filled with 1960s idealism, was determined to make a career in public service.

Leidner, assistant commissioner for geographic information systems with New York City's Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications, remembers his introduction to mapmaking. "I had to survey building conditions using hundreds of cut-ups of blocks and buildings," he recalled. "To create a thematic map, I had to hand color every one of the cut-ups."

Despite his humble start, Leidner maintained interest, eventually bringing his mapping experience to the city's Department of Environmental Protection. Here, he helped modernize the city's maps with GIS, at which point light bulbs began flickering on. "Then we started to register and relate all the city's data that had a spatial component to this infrastructure of spatial maps and data," he said. "That was the inception of the modern, New York City GIS."

In the late 1990s, the West Nile virus was controlled and eradicated by the city's GIS system; Leidner and city workers pinpointed West Nile hotspots with overlays of wetlands and drainage systems, and rather than bombing areas with toxic pesticides, the city sprayed discreetly and quickly managed a major health problem.

After Sept. 11., and practically overnight, Leidner helped set up a 25-station GIS center temporarily housed on a pier on the Hudson River. The team quickly created maps for about a two-week period, handling 2,800 total requests as the city responded to and recovered from the tragedy.

"It was vindication for the entire GIS community and the city," Leidner said. "It showed how we can bring together all these efforts and add value to them so that the city had a unified, but distributed, GIS. What happened with [GIS and] the World Trade Center vindicated our efforts and pointed to the future -- that this was a continuing, valuable asset to enhance and to further develop."

-- Tod Newcombe, Features Editor

John Engler
Former Governor

After serving 12 years as governor of Michigan, John Engler stepped down this year. He created the Department of Information Technology, a Cabinet-level office that led state agencies in the coordinated development of new online government services and oversaw the state's award-winning government Web site.

Engler also established the e-Michigan Office as the centralized agency to lead all state agencies in e-government initiatives and policy development.

"Part of our success ultimately came from the fact that success itself begets more success," Engler said. "If you start a project and you have success, people see a process improving, a functionality growing, they say, 'That's what I want for my agency or my department.'"

His administration is perhaps best known for actively and aggressively jump-starting broadband deployment in the state.

The former governor signed a package of broadband bills into law last year that created a single statewide right-of-way authority, established a broadband finance authority to provide low-interest loans to expand broadband access and provided tax credits to telecommunications providers who invest in new broadband infrastructure.

Pushing technological change does have its impediments, Engler said, because any time the status quo is challenged, the case has to be made why the proposed change is worth making.

"Given the tough and difficult budget circumstances in virtually every state, the case for technology is quite compelling," he said. "I see the deployment of technology and the supporting of technology through high-speed Internet connections as one of the fundamentals in what a state must do in its own economic-development strategy."

Electronic government is in its relative infancy, he said, and the inherent potential of intergovernmental relationships will help change the relationship between all levels of government.

"We're at an important juncture in that relationship," he said, citing the new Department of Homeland Security is a possible driver of intergovernmental collaboration. "It's a very important time for the future of federalism because we will have to be able to make agreements, and Washington will have to count on the fact that we're going to live up to them."

-- Shane Peterson, Associate Editor

Charles Gerhards
Former Chief Information Officer
Former Deputy Secretary for Information Technology

Charles Gerhards became Pennsylvania's CIO in 1999, but was involved in the commonwealth's IT projects long before. His retirement in January ended 33 years of service with the commonwealth, and from the word go Gerhards was innovating with technology as technology was created.

As CIO, he helped fulfill the "single face of government" vision that drives Pennsylvania IT. In 1999, Gov. Tom Ridge "asked us to deploy portal technology because he wanted to push the strategy of a single face of government where constituents shouldn't need to know where to go for services; they should be able to go to a single source, and that source, through navigation, should be intuitive -- to point them where to get a service in a particular state agency," Gerhards said, adding that he oversaw the transformation from state Web site to e-government portal.

The state also opened a portal -- PA Open for Business -- for those who want to start a business in Pennsylvania. The portal allows applicants to fill out appropriate agency forms by using a wizard; they never need to walk into an agency or talk to anyone.

In addition, Gerhards directed several public safety projects, such as a consolidated interagency public safety radio system that provides both voice and data communications. Another groundbreaking project, JNET, integrated all of the state's criminal justice databases. "This system has been responsible for identifying rapists and robbers and others that, to date, hadn't been identified," he said. "The technology has allowed us to pull a lot of information together, and basically locate individuals that heretofore we were unable to locate."

Other implementations Gerhards oversaw include consolidating 17 data centers into one, which was then outsourced to the private sector; equipping all state agencies with uniform desktop software and a common e-mail system; and creating interoperability among agencies. In July 2002, the state started its Imagine PA ERP implementation, which streamlined management of accounting, budget, payroll, personnel and purchasing. The new system also allows real-time access to the data.

-- Emily Montandon, Copy Editor

Martin O'Malley

The youngest mayor in Baltimore's history is bridging the digital divide by building a digital harbor. As startup technology firms flocked to the city, Martin O'Malley launched a task force to develop strategies for capturing a slice of the New Economy's potential. The resulting policies have had sweeping impact on the city and surrounding region.

"A couple of years ago, there was a lot of talk about the New Economy," he said in his 2002 "Window to the World" speech. "The reality is that we may not need the term 'New Economy' anymore because it has become the reality in which we operate."

Soon after his election in 1999, O'Malley launched CitiStat, an initiative to improve access to city services through IT.

"If we only looked at performance every year at budget time, I'd be old and gray before anything would change," he said in a Democrat Leadership Council model initiative. "CitiStat brings the sense of urgency we need."

The program strengthens vital city services such as trash collection, housing and development, and public health. Additional programs monitor lead paint in old buildings, evaluate drug treatment center effectiveness and focus on youth recreation facilities. O'Malley also created one number citizens dial for city services; after receiving the call, a new CitiTrack system assigns a tracking number and routes it to the appropriate agency.

To identify strengths and weaknesses in government programs and departments, CitiStat provides immediate data, such as employee overtime, frequency and type of citizen complaints, and response time to specific cases. City officials meet with agency representatives biweekly to discuss the data and hold managers accountable on delivering results.

"Baltimore has a lot to offer," O'Malley said. "Everyone here knows our region's strengths, as well as our challenges. By focusing on results, we can build on those strengths and overcome each of our challenges."

-- Jessica Jones, Managing Editor