Phoenix Hires Former Alaska Official Shannon Lawson as CISO

The former Alaska CISO and Navy security specialist will head up cybersecurity operations for America’s fifth-largest city, drawing on experience with security operations centers, team building and program development.

by / April 4, 2019
The Greater Phoenix Economic Council, the Arizona State University Center for Smart Cities and Regions, and the Arizona Institute for Digital Progress have come together to launch the Greater Phoenix Smart Region Initiative. Shutterstock

Shannon Lawson is overseeing cybersecurity in Phoenix as the city’s new chief information security officer, effective April 2.

As described by the city’s website, Lawson, 44, is in charge of strategic oversight of Phoenix’s IT security and privacy programs, developing related policies and standards, and otherwise protecting the city’s computer systems from unauthorized access, disruption or destruction.

Lawson’s predecessor in the role was Randell Smith, who had been CISO in Phoenix since 2008 and worked for the city for more than 12 years before he retired in January and started his own cybersecurity consulting company, Randell Smith and Associates Inc.

Lawson’s LinkedIn shows a career spanning more than half a dozen tech companies and government agencies since 1997, including roles as a cryptologic comm-tech supervisor for the U.S. Navy, computer scientist for the National Security Agency, senior network technologist for Raytheon Technical Services Company, engineer for both SAIC and AUSGAR Technologies, information warfare officer for the U.S. Navy and cybersecurity director of the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command.

Most recently, Lawson was the first-ever CISO for the state of Alaska, where he was involved with replacing all end-point detection and response capabilities, implementing email security and building out a security operations center in Juneau.

He told Government Technology that his first role in city government will be “vastly different and just as challenging” as his last job, managing cybersecurity for the nation’s fifth-largest city with more than double Alaska’s population.

“It’s considered a smart city, so there’s a lot of information technology built into services that are serving the 1.7 million citizens,” Lawson said. “They’re definitely forward-leaning in cybersecurity and privacy, which is great … From what I’m hearing, it sounds very positive.”

Lawson said Phoenix wanted a CISO with some experience in security operations centers, building teams and maturing cybersecurity programs, and he expects to have a role in several such projects.

“They have a lot of initiatives going on here at the city, so as we start building out the security capability and maturing it further, all those actions are going to be plugged into other initiatives that the other assistant CIOs and deputy CIOs are working on,” he said.

Andrew Westrope Staff Writer

Andrew Westrope is a staff writer for Government Technology. Before that, he was a reporter and editor at community newspapers for seven years. He has a Bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.