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Laurel Caldwell

Director of Information Technology Services, Latah County, Idaho

Laurel Caldwell
David Kidd/Government Technology
Making connections across the vast, wide and devastatingly beautiful stretches of Idaho may not always come naturally, even in the seemingly super-connected world of IT.

Laurel Caldwell has been working to change this. Caldwell has spent the last 11 years as the IT director for Latah County, in the north central part of the state along the Washington border. For the last three years she has worked to create and lead a statewide county association for IT workers as a platform for information sharing.

“When I started here, for several years, there wasn’t any other information about fellow county IT directors or CIOs. So I started to ask around — how can I get this information? How can I find out who are my neighboring IT leaders? And I worked with my commissioners and then also our Idaho Association of Counties,” said Caldwell. 

“Every meeting that we have, we grow by a few people,” remarked Caldwell. “So the word’s getting out, and this could be a resource for each of the counties.”

Some of the challenges faced by public-sector tech leaders are not that different from those experienced by anyone living in rural America. Notably, high-quality broadband is not a given.

“When we have our meetings, that topic comes up every single time. ‘How can I get fiber to my county?’ Or something like that. So just being connected is one thing,” said Caldwell.  

However, beyond improving connections — technology or otherwise — Caldwell hopes to simply make the county a better place than when she arrived. “Long after I’m gone, all the counties in Idaho will be able to connect with one another as a resource to improve the services for their constituents,” she said.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.