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State IT Leadership Sees Generational Shift in 2023

With the retirement of some longtime pillars of the gov tech community this year and a host of fresh faces stepping into leadership, state IT offices are seeing more diversity in background and experience.

Blurred image of people in suits walking in front of a lit-up building
2023 brought a host of new leadership to state IT offices — evidence of a generational shift in progress. The year ended with more women and people of color in those roles than it started with, and CIOs were joined by colleagues with new titles that are representative of the current era. As of 2022, every state has a chief information security officer, but some are starting to add other new roles to the mix, titles like chief digital experience officer, AI adviser and director of IT accessibility, as Maryland CIO and Secretary of Information Technology Katie Savage did in August. Savage was named secretary of information technology in January by Gov. Wes Moore, stepping up to a position last held by Mike Leahy, who served for six years under the previous governor.

And while many new faces have entered the C-suite, their background and experience are as diverse as ever. Savage led the Department of Defense’s Defense Digital Service, where she helped lead the agency’s response to COVID-19, and also worked on a digital tool to support Afghan refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. She also did nonprofit IT work, enhancing digital services for the city of Chicago.

Nevada CIO Tim Galluzi is a Marine Corps veteran, bringing his IT experience there to positions with Western Nevada College and the State Public Works Division before moving to the central IT office in 2018. And that office itself underwent a significant change recently with a legislatively enabled move to the governor’s office from the Department of Administration. The shift puts Galluzzi on the governor’s cabinet, bringing new visibility to IT. “We needed to elevate the conversation to the strategic level,” Galluzi told GT in October.

Former Comcast Vice President Amaya Capellán was named the CIO of Pennsylvania in July, lured into government by the ability to make an impact in residents’ lives through the effective use of technology. Capellán has high hopes for Pennsylvania’s newly created Commonwealth Office of Digital Experience (CODE PA), which sits within the Office of Information Technology, to target and improve citizen-facing functions like permitting and licensing. She’s also focused on cultivating a diverse workforce that represents the constituency they serve.

Rhode Island CIO and Chief Digital Officer Brian Tardiff was named in early 2023, following the departure of Bijay Kumar last September. Most recently the state CISO, Tardiff is credited with reducing the state’s cyber risk by 20 percent in three years. As chief of staff for the Division of IT, he guided Rhode Island’s IT projects that received funding from the CARES Act. Indicative of his style, Tardiff says deep relationships with partners throughout Rhode Island, admittedly “geographically tight,” are key to success.

Chief privacy officers aren’t new anymore either. As of June, NASCIO identified 25 states that have a person with organizationwide responsibility on privacy. And many other states are headed in this direction, like New Hampshire CIO Denis Goulet, one of several who told GT in May that he was working to secure funding for the position in his state.

And alongside the injection of fresh talent into government IT came the departures of some who have guided states through major transitions over several years. The record-holder for 2023 departures comes from Utah Chief Technology Officer Dave Fletcher. Replaced by private-sector veteran Chris Williamson, Fletcher was Utah CTO for two decades, with an additional decade with the state before that. During that time, he oversaw Utah’s successful foray into digital government, starting with the state’s first websites, its 2007 e-government plan, and later, the turn toward mobile and the cloud. Always with an eye toward the future, at the time of his departure Fletcher noted his own daily use of generative AI while pointing to its evolving potential in government, calling it the “biggest technological advancement in 30 years.”

The typical state CIO serves only a couple years, making the January 2023 retirement of Massachusetts CIO Curt Wood notable as well, given his decadeslong service to the state. While Wood took on the role of CIO in 2018, since 1975 he served with several departments, including the Massachusetts Department of Correction and the state's Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. As CIO, Wood transitioned the state to a more centralized IT organization and saw then-Gov. Charlie Baker elevate the role of the state CIO to that of a cabinet secretary.

2024 will undoubtedly see more significant turnover in state-level IT leadership as those with fresh perspectives look to build upon the foundations established by departing CIOs.

Click here to read the rest of our 2023 Year in Review coverage.

This story originally appeared in the December issue of Government Technology magazine. Click here to view the full digital edition online.
Noelle Knell is the executive editor for e.Republic, responsible for setting the overall direction for e.Republic’s editorial platforms, including Government Technology, Governing, Industry Insider, Emergency Management and the Center for Digital Education. She has been with e.Republic since 2011, and has decades of writing, editing and leadership experience. A California native, Noelle has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history.