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New Maricopa County CISO Wants to Add Context to Cybersecurity

Lester Godsey brings more than two decades of experience in IT and cybersecurity to the Arizona county. He hopes to translate that experience into new partnerships and, ultimately, results.

Maricopa County, Ariz., the most populous county in the state and home to Phoenix, has named Lester Godsey as its new chief information security officer (CISO).

Godsey, who has more than two decades of IT and cybersecurity experience in government and academia, began his tenure with the county's Office of Enterprise Technology Nov. 18.  

He replaces Robert O'Connor, who spent the past three years with the county. It's unclear when exactly O'Connor left the position, though Godsey told Government Technology that the position had been vacant for some time. 

"Maricopa County was looking for the right candidate for them, so they didn't necessarily jump to fill the position," he said.

With a population in excess of 4 million residents, Maricopa is an important hub for industry and commerce throughout Arizona. Stepping into such a important role, Godsey said he hopes to be a leader "who could represent cybersecurity within a bigger context and be able to work and partner with" a diverse set of organizations throughout the wider community.  

Before his new position, Godsey was employed with the city of Mesa, Ariz., for nine years. During that time, he rose from being the IT manager of the city to CISO, and eventually took on responsibilities as the chief privacy officer, as well, according to his LinkedIn. He describes his managerial style as focusing on "leadership, data management and cybersecurity, specializing in organizational strategy and development."  

During his time with Mesa, Godsey said he felt he was able to "significantly mature" the "security controls and initiatives" of the city, while also advancing privacy initiatives. This included the adoption of multi-factor authentication for all external access with the city's IT department, as well as the development of both a public-facing policy of data privacy principles and an internal set of related management criteria, he said.  

"We were able to successfully implement a very diverse, layered, defensive approach to security," he said, adding he hopes to bring the same approach to the larger scope of the county position.   

He also brings an academic background, having taught at and provided IT guidance and management for a number of universities and colleges throughout the state, including Ottowa University, Albright College, and the Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He has taught at the collegiate level for over 12 years, according to his employee profile.  

Though it's his first week on the job, Godsey said he's already being brought into the county's efforts to prepare for the 2020 elections. That includes the process — already begun — of communicating and working together with the county's federal partners.  

"We'll be working closely with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that the elections are secure," he said, calling it an important priority among many. 

Lucas Ropek is a former staff writer for Government Technology.