Parting Words from Public CIO Editor

After seven years with Public CIO, Tod Newcombe moves on to edit Governing magazine

by / February 17, 2010

In the summer of 2002, campaigns for 36 gubernatorial races were beginning to heat up. The economy was on everybody's mind, in the wake of the dot-com bust that had left a string of bankrupt technology firms and lingering questions about the Internet's direction and purpose. We did the math and realized that a large number of state CIO positions would be vacant and rookie governors were about to begin new agendas at a time when public-sector IT needed guidance and leadership.

With that as background, e.Republics CEO Dennis McKenna decided to launch a new publication, called Public CIO, dedicated to covering and serving the public CIO community. Despite the acute political situation at the state level, the goal was to reach the entire spectrum of CIOs, from those who ran IT for gigantic federal agencies down to modest-sized communities, all of whom needed critical information about managing and leading IT operations within government.

With that somewhat ambitious mission statement, we chose to put the nation's first federal IT leader on the cover. Mark Forman may not have had the title of national CIO, but he was then-President George W. Bush's point man for the federal government's $60 billion IT program. Since the first issue was published in summer 2003, we managed to put the next two federal CIOs on the cover -- Karen Evans and Vivek Kundra -- as well as many state and local CIOs.

When we interviewed Forman for the first issue of Public CIO, several of our questions focused on the leading trend: electronic government. It's hard to believe that just eight years ago, e-gov, as many eventually truncated the term, was so powerful a topic. And as outdated as it now seems, I do look back with pride that we also covered some topics, such as change management and enterprise IT, that were hardly barn-burner stories back then but continue to resonate today as issues worth covering for CIOs.

Today, IT is firmly enmeshed in the fabric of government and the public CIO's role and purpose are more important than ever. And just as information technology has changed a fair amount since 2002, so too has the significance and importance of IT management and leadership. Today's CIO not only must understand the complexities of IT, he or she also must be a great communicator, relationship-builder and management guru in order to survive and thrive.

Despite the relatively low pay and occasional political whiplash that comes with the job, not to mention the mind-numbing budget constraints, the public CIO community continues to attract people who want a challenge and want to lead in digital government. That's a good thing. Unfortunately many are also leaving the field, making the need for new leadership paramount.

I've had the pleasure of editing this magazine during its first seven years of existence and found the work and people I covered always interesting. Now it's time to say farewell as I take up a new position with our newly acquired publication: Governing. It's been a pleasure serving our readers, and I know that the magazine is now in the very capable hands of my colleague Steve Towns. I hope you continue to enjoy and learn from Public CIO for years to come.


Tod Newcombe, Editor Editor, Public CIO