Oregon Chief Information Officer Alex Pettit and Gov. Kate Brown "mutually agreed" the time was right for the state's top technology official to tender his resignation, effective June 1.
Oregon’s top technology official will be moving on later this spring as his deputy fills in and a nationwide search for his replacement ramps up, the state announced in a news release.
Oregon Chief Information Officer Alex Pettit announced his resignation effective June 1, the state said in a news release late on April 6, adding that Deputy CIO Terrence Woods would take over as interim CIO during the search for Pettit’s “permanent” replacement.
“Gov. Kate Brown and CIO Alex Pettit mutually agreed that after his service stabilizing several technology challenges for Oregon state agencies and partner jurisdictions, the time is right for a new CIO to be put in place to build on his work and move the governor’s vision for information technology (IT) governance forward,” the state said in its announcement.
In a statement, the governor thanked the CIO for his "work managing creative solutions for difficult problems.”
“Alex's commitment to Oregonians was evident in his efforts to steer the Chief Information Officer's office towards customer-centered and innovative solutions,” Brown said.
Pettit had previously served as the first-ever CIO for the state of Oklahoma and came to Oregon in early 2014 to replace CIO Dugan Petty.
In January, the state issued a notice of default to provider IBM, after experiencing difficulties with the implementation of Project Mobilizing Unified Systems and Integrated Communications (MUSIC), a multi-year, multimillion dollar telephone system deployment. According to the Willamette Week, the project will connect more than 30,000 staffers around Oregon and has cost the state $45.8 million (between 2015 and 2017) — but left staffers without working telephones.
In a follow-up memorandum on March 23 made available by the Willamette Week, Pettit told agency heads that IBM had “submitted their final root cause analysis (RCA) and mitigation plan” to address issues laid out in the default notice; that the state had accepted the RCA and “preliminarily accepted their mitigation plan.”
“Several technical changes have been executed or will be addressed to improve the resilience and reliability of the solution,” Pettit wrote in the memo, adding that IBM has shared its plan “to conduct a readiness review of the incident, the problem change process, and the core telephony solution itself.”
The state, Pettit said in the memo has also hired Gartner Inc., to scrutinize documentation, offer recommendations and observations and help the state conduct a “comprehensive test” of the solution. During the two weeks leading up to his memo, the CIO noted, “we have experienced no phone outages.”
In an email, Scott Cook, a member of IBM’s external communications team, told GT: “With respect to our work with the state of Oregon, we are committed to the continued success of this project and we have diligently worked with the Department of Administrative Services to resolve the State's concerns.”
It is unclear whether Pettit’s departure is related to the troubled phone system deployment. The CIO did not respond to an email from Government Technology seeking comment.
Oregon state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, a member of the Legislature's Joint Subcommittee on General Government, was in attendance last spring when lawmakers learned Project MUSIC’s rollout would be delayed for four months.
Johnson told GT she had heard during the week of April 2 that Pettit might be leaving, but called his resignation a “complete surprise.” The legislator did not mince words when asked what qualities she’d like the state’s next CIO to possess.
“What I want across state government is performance and accountability,” Johnson added.
Oregon’s CIO has considerable company among C-level tech execs heading for the exits nationwide. Recent state-level departures include Nevada CIO Shanna Rahming; New Jersey Chief Technology Officer Dave Weinstein; and Montana CIO Ron Baldwin.