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Colorado Gov. Appoints Permanent Replacement for Szczurek

Colorado's new CIO, Anthony Neal-Graves, has worked extensively on expanding the state's broadband reach and says he wants to prioritize IT delivery, cybersecurity and expanded virtual access to services.

Colorado State Capital
Colorado State Capital Building in Denver, CO.
Colorado has selected Anthony Neal-Graves as its next chief information officer, the governor's office announced Thursday.   

While this week marks his first official week on the job, Neal-Graves has actually been serving as the state's interim CIO since September, when Theresa Szczurek stepped down.

Before taking over as head of the Office of Information Technology (OIT), Neal-Graves was no stranger to Colorado government, having served for the past four years as executive director of the state's broadband office, as well as spending the past year or so as OIT chief operating officer.

Before joining government, he also spent over 16 years with Intel, working in both the U.S. and China on business and technology strategy, and also held significant positions at AT&T and Bell Laboratories, according to his LinkedIn.

"The focus for me is everything that we laid out in July in terms of our goals and commitments to the governor," said Neal-Graves, speaking with Government Technology.

Those commitments were outlined in an annual report, whose vision for 2021 sees the pursuit of three basic priorities: transforming the delivery of IT, enhancing statewide cybersecurity and expanding virtual access to government services.

In many ways, Neal-Graves comes to this leadership position at a tenuous time — with COVID-19 still causing challenges for governments across the country. Yet, the transition to telework and the handling of other virus-related hurtles, most of which was handled by his predecessor Szczurek, has gone off without a hitch, he said.  

"The most difficult thing we faced at the beginning of this was how are we going to transition 90 percent of the workforce to virtual," he said, adding that "within a week's time" OIT was able to manage that transition relatively smoothly.

Relatedly, Neal-Graves said cybersecurity would be an important issue to focus on moving forward, given how critical it is to securing that newly virtual workforce. The new CIO said that OIT has sought to boost cybersecurity throughout the state by expanding risk awareness training. 

"The most important thing that you can do to ensure that you have a secure environment is training people," the new CIO said. "We've expanded our training requirements around security fairly significantly, and its statewide. We hold everybody accountable for that training."

With such a prolific private-sector background, one might also be wondering why Neal-Graves decided to pursue a role in government at all. 

"I was first interested in working with the state because of the broadband issue," said Neal-Graves, referencing his years of work to expand Internet access in Colorado's most rural communities. "What really drew me to state service was that it's really about helping people. I have found it to be incredibly rewarding because the things that we work on really matter to people, whether its making sure that somebody gets their unemployment insurance check on time, or whether we are helping them apply to Medicaid or Medicare," he said. 

Lucas Ropek is a former staff writer for Government Technology.