GovTech Top 25 Honorees Cast Wide Nets for Transformation

This year’s class of Government Technology’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers is an impressive group of IT leaders working in and alongside government to improve how the public sector works.

by / April/May 2020

It’s Top 25 time again, our favorite time of the year. If you’re new to the GovTech community, this is this magazine’s signature issue each year, in which we honor a group of people notable for their commitment to serving in the public interest using technology. It’s a heavily vetted process, where Government Technology writers and editors research, pitch and passionately lobby for their respective nominees. We’re really proud of the results. There are city, county and state CIOs, other government officials, a CEO, and others working alongside government who are critical partners in helping them achieve their mission. 

Here’s a preview:

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is featured prominently in this issue due to his Doers, Dreamers and Drivers profile and his mention in our analysis of 2020 State of the State speeches, beginning on p. 38. The reigning tech governor among the current crop, Burgum had his presentation clicker for his annual address delivered by drone, in a nod to his support for the emerging technology and his commitment to the development of the industry in North Dakota. In fact, he gave the speech in Grand Forks, a few hours east of the capital and the location of one of the country’s seven FAA-sanctioned test sites. Read more about Burgum’s plans to transform how government functions here.

A couple of cybersecurity chiefs made our list this year. The rise of ransomware and the growing awareness of election-related threats are among the factors contributing to their jobs getting more and more difficult. Texas Chief Information Security Officer Nancy Rainosek is among the leaders who have taken seriously the role of the state in helping localities prepare for, and respond to, cyberattacks. This commitment was tested last August when a coordinated attack hit 23 distinct cities and towns, and Rainosek has been praised for how she marshalled the resources of the state in response.

North Carolina Chief Risk Officer Maria Thompson is putting similar emphasis on collaboration when it comes to cybersecurity, advocating a “whole of state approach” that draws on her two decades of U.S. Marine Corps experience. Part of her strategy is using artificial intelligence-powered tools to help automate intrusion detection and increase visibility into the entire threat landscape. “You can’t protect what you can’t see,” she said, “… There’s always room for improvement, but we’re always getting better.”

Longtime Asheville, N.C., CIO Jonathan Feldman is representative of a modern IT leader who has an expansive view of his job — one he planned to hold for just a few years. “There are two kinds of CIOs,” Feldman said, “the kind that faces into the data center and the kind that faces out of the data center. You want to be the kind looking out. That was advice I got when I first got to be a director.” Feldman’s made impressive progress implementing modern governance processes and flexible cloud technologies, while recruiting a strong mission-driven team also focused on serving Asheville citizens.

That’s just a small sample of the visionary leaders who make up Government Technology’s Top 25 for 2020. Our hope is always that reading about their achievements and plans inspires similar work in other places. That’s the beauty of government, where great minds can collaborate and good ideas can multiply. Congratulations to this year’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers.

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.

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