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Alaska’s ‘Disrupter Agent’ CIO Resigns from State Service

Bill Vajda, who was charged with starting the consolidation process for the state’s Office of Information Technology, departed in late August.

Bill Vajda, the state of Alaska’s first CIO to preside over a centralized IT structure, tendered his resignation in late August. The departure is one of two within the Office of Information Technology (OIT) that has officials on the hunt for new leadership.

Deputy CIO Dan DeBartolo confirmed Vajda’s Aug. 28 departure, saying that while the timing was initially surprising, it coincides with a gubernatorial race that has the potential for an administration change.

“I can tell you that there were some personal reasons involved, although Bill may have been planning to move with the potential transition in the administration — if that happened and he had to make that choice,” he said.

DeBartolo said there are plans to hire a new CIO through a national search, which is expected to begin in the next few weeks.

In the interim, John Boucher will serve as Vajda’s temporary replacement. Before being tapped to fill in, Boucher had served as a senior analyst with the Alaska Office of Management and Budget ahead of moving to OIT.

Vajda took over at a time when Gov. Bill Walker was looking to consolidate the state’s technology and telecommunications assets within one agency. In April 2017, Walker signed Administrative Order 284 and appointed Vajda as the state’s inaugural CIO.

Prior to accepting the position, Vajda had served under the Bush and Obama administrations, as well as many other positions in the public and private sectors.

Asked how he would describe Vajda’s time with OIT, DeBartolo said that the former CIO was aware that his role was one of the “disrupter agent,” often joking that the next CIO would be “CIO 2.0.” 

“Bill acknowledged that he was here to be the one that absorbed the fire, what’s sometimes called friendly fire,” the deputy CIO said.

Though starting discussions between the agencies with varying agendas was no small or easy task, DeBartolo said, Vajda able to start productive dialogs and move the process forward. “We all appreciated that he opened up the lines of communication. Even though change is hard, he opened it up in a way that we all started talking about this again.” 

“I think what stuck out for me with Bill was his focus on bringing the state of Alaska into the current decade as far as technology is concerned,” DeBartolo said. “He recognized that there were so many heavy siloes with IT ... [in] 15 different departments for the better part of 30 years. While some departments innovated and moved along with the times, some didn’t keep the same pace.”

The other leadership position to open recently is one central to this larger consolidation effort — chief technology officer for portfolio planning and policy (P3) within OIT. This role focuses largely on governance development and statewide service agreements. The vacancy came with the departure of Ryan Colgan.

The post is being advertised to in the hopes of finding a qualified Alaskan, though DeBartolo said that search could be widened.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to clarify that Bill Vajda was the first to preside over Alaska's centralized IT structure and not the first CIO in the state's history.

Eyragon Eidam is the managing editor for Industry Insider — California. He previously served as the daily news editor for Government Technology. He lives in Sacramento, Calif.