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Colorado Taps Former Oregon CIO as Chief Technology Officer

Pettit, a familiar figure in the government IT space over the last 20 years, is now Colorado's CTO. He comes to the position after a search to replace David McCurdy, who left the role in October last year.

Alex Pettit
David Kidd/Government Technology
Colorado has chosen Alex Pettit, former CIO of Oregon and Oklahoma, as its new chief technology officer. 

Pettit comes to the position within the Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) at a time when the state seeks to utilize more emerging tech. The press release announcing his appointment mentions that Pettit will “guide further enhancements” related to blockchain and artificial intelligence, among other technologies.

“Alex brings a wealth of knowledge to the state of Colorado as a veteran technology expert in both the public and private sectors,” said CIO and OIT Executive Director Theresa Szczurek in the release. 

After joking about getting used to the altitude and dry climate of Colorado, Pettit was humble when asked about what he planned to do in his new role as state CTO, saying he is “blessed” to be back in public service after a short absence and that he would act as a “sponge for quite some time” given all of the state’s ambitious tech initiatives. 

“The thing that I will focus on first is understanding and working in cooperation with leadership on their governance model,” Pettit told Government Technology, adding that OIT “are the ones who are way ahead” of him. 

He pointed out that Colorado has had a unified IT department for a number of years, so his tenure in the state will be different from his time in Oregon, which employs a federated IT structure, and Oklahoma, a state that Pettit helped move toward a consolidated model. 

From his perspective, the biggest challenge in the government technology space involves the relationship between new solutions and money. Due to the costs that can be associated with trying new things, he said there can be a tendency to punish organizations that want to embrace change. It can also be tricky to discourage people from using outdated technology that costs virtually nothing to maintain but that is ultimately not secure. 

“I don’t have a good answer for it yet, but I do see that as a fundamental challenge that I’m trying to work my way through,” Pettit said. 

Pettit left his role as a project management consultant with company TEKsystems to take the CTO position in Colorado. Colorado’s last permanent CTO, David McCurdy, departed from the state in October.

Pettit has a distinguished career in government tech. Between June 2018 and June 2019, Pettit was the chief enterprise architect for the Oregon Secretary of State. From 2014 to June 2018, Pettit served as Oregon’s CIO, a position that he steered toward “customer-centered and innovative solutions,” according to Gov. Kate Brown. 

Before that, he was Oklahoma’s first-ever CIO. In Oklahoma, Pettit served under two governors, Brad Henry and Mary Fallin, and led the state’s IT restructuring effort that involved the consolidation of resources from about 80 data centers. He also served as the first CTO for the city of Denton, Texas, holding that position for more than a decade. 

Jed Pressgrove has been a writer and editor for about 15 years. He received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in sociology from Mississippi State University.