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Tom Lynch

CIO, Cook County, Ill.

Cook County, Ill., CIO Tom Lynch
David Kidd/Government Technology
When Tom Lynch first came to Cook County, Ill., in 2014, he had his work cut out for him. It’s a big jurisdiction — home to more than 5 million people and encompassing the city of Chicago — and for years there was what Lynch called a revolving door for CIOs. Part of the problem was that the various agencies where elected officials sit had set up disparate IT platforms, some of them dating to the 1990s or even the 1970s. Not only were they not operating in a way that fostered collaboration, but they didn’t trust that central IT had their backs.

Lynch has worked hard to change that, first as deputy CIO and then in the top seat starting in 2018. In the beginning he did triage, stabilizing the mainframe and doing a quick upgrade of the existing ERP and time and attendance systems. After that, he started building support for shared applications and investment in technologies that felt expensive to officials but would drive efficiency across the enterprise.

Trust has been key to transitioning county staff who may have been on the same systems for 25 years to new platforms. It’s so essential, in fact, that Lynch’s office created a dedicated change management position to guide these efforts, leading to continued work modernizing fundamental systems like courts and property taxes.

Lynch has experience in city and state government, as well as time in the private sector serving the Illinois tollway. Along the way he developed a particular specialty in ERP modernizations. Lynch’s career began in budget and finance, which also helped build a practical backbone for his work in tech.

In government, he explained, change often only happens when there’s a major crisis or if someone comes in with the energy and drive to fix what’s broken. He puts himself firmly in the second category. “It’s art and science behind this, and we’re here to help you,” Lynch said. “We’re only here to help you, in fact.”
Lauren Harrison is the managing editor for Government Technology magazine. She has a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and 15 years’ experience in book and magazine publishing.