Tech Transitions in 2016

Take a look back at the major career changes of the year.

2016 saw many changes to who held government IT roles, especially at the local level. While innovation and data-driven efforts continued to create the need for new C-level positions, cybersecurity became a prominent focus and agencies hired on roles for specialized functions like drone regulation. Here’s our look back at the major career changes of the year.


A new year, a new mayor, a big change in Philadelphia information technology. After CIO Adel Ebeid left for the private sector at the end of 2015, new Mayor Jim Kenney appointed longtime policing technology worker Charles Brennan as his replacement. Under Brennan and Kenney, a series of changes ensued: The CIO’s office began reporting to the chief administrative officer, the chief data officer’s role became focused solely on data and not on Web services, and the city shuttered the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. Though some staff members were upset by the changes, the city kept moving forward with its projects and internal process improvements, including opening salary data of most city workers to the public.

It took less than a month for Washington, D.C., to fill the void left when four-year Chief Technology Officer Rob Mancini left for an accounting firm. His successor, Archana Vemulapalli, came in as the city was pushing for an open data policy. Her focus is on civic engagement and thinking in terms of service instead of technology.


After a 40-year career in Southern California government, Los Angeles County CIO Richard Sanchez retired. As IT chief for the country’s most populous county, Sanchez led the construction of an open data portal, created a chief data officer position, increased mobile access for citizen services and emphasized keeping communication open with more than 30 departments.

Armed with $8.2 million to launch an innovation office, Sacramento, Calif., brought on Abhi Nemani as interim chief innovation officer. Nemani, whose background includes Code for America and a 13-month stint as Los Angeles’ chief data officer, is looking to build the city’s blooming tech startup scene into a larger cluster.

When Andrew Therriault became Boston’s first chief data officer, he inherited an already-robust portfolio of projects ranging from municipal performance dashboards to transportation data sharing with Waze. Therriault, who worked as the Democratic National Committee’s data science director, said he wants to work on concepts such as machine learning and predictive analytics.


Fresno, Calif., put a “homegrown talent” at the head of its IT efforts in June when it named Bryon Horn the new CIO. Horn, who had been assistant CIO and worked with the city for 13 years, is also president of the Municipal Information Systems Association of California.

After working in CIO-type positions for Colorado, Ashland, Ore., and Avondale, Ariz., Rob Lloyd became CIO for San Jose, Calif. Lloyd stepped into a department with a $21 million budget and 83 employees with a focus on upgrading a suite of enterprise systems ranging from financial management to permitting.

In June of 2016, Rob Lloyd became the CIO of San Jose, Calif.

The White House Office of Science Technology and Policy called up Kelly Jin to serve as a policy adviser after her work as citywide analytics manager for Boston. Jin was in Boston for the rollout of the city performance platform, CityScore, and focused on public safety and housing.

Debbie Cotton had been with the city of Phoenix for 13 years when she retired. The last two and a half years were spent as CIO of the city, a role in which she stressed shared services built on a federated model where a central office works with IT staff at each department.

Debbie Cotton
Phoenix CIO Debbie Cotton retired in July. Photo by David Kidd.

When Peter Marx stepped down as chief technology officer of Los Angeles, the mayor replaced the role with a new one — senior technology adviser — and filled it with Deputy CIO Jeanne Holm. As CTO, Marx helped expand the broadband network, struck data-sharing agreements and developed applications.

Seven months after Archana Vemulapalli became Washington, D.C.’s new chief technology officer, her office found its next chief data officer in Barney Krucoff. Krucoff spent the last 11 years working on geographic information systems for D.C. and the state of Maryland. In his new role, he’s aiming to expand data access for entrepreneurs and academics.

As leaves fell from trees, so too did a slew of New York City officials drop away — including CTO Minerva Tantoco and Chief Digital Officer Jessica Singleton. Stepping in for Singleton was Sree Sreenivasan, who was CDO for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Columbia University. Singleton left for Harvard’s MBA program, while Tantoco joined the woman-run venture capital firm Future/Perfect.

In one week, Louisville, Ky., lost Chief Innovation Officer Ted Smith to health tech company Revon Systems, as well as Chief of Performance and Technology (CPT) Theresa Reno-Weber to the nonprofit Metro United Way. Both were replaced that week as well — Grace Simrall, executive innovation director for Intel Care Innovations, became CIO, while Cuyahoga County, Ohio, CIO Daro Mott came in as the CPT.

In August, Daro Mott came to Louisville as its new Chief of Performance and Technology.

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., hired Alan Howze to fill a new C-level job: chief knowledge officer. Previously employed with IBM, Howze plans to improve the government’s analytical and technological capabilities.

One month into searching for its first-ever innovation manager, Santa Fe, N.M., had four dozen applicants and a host of complaints. The decision to offer at least $125,000 — just as the mayor was slated for a raise, and the city was grappling with news that it had more municipal employees per capita than its peers — was met with some trepidation. Officials vowed to move forward, provided they could find somebody qualified.

Louisville, Ky., became the 12th city to hire a chief data officer when Michael Schnuerle entered public service on Oct. 10. Schnuerle brings a well equipped background to the position: More than a decade ago, he launched a Google Maps-based tool to show users crime reports from around Louisville. Over time, he added more municipal data to the tool and eventually created a company called YourMapper.

Three years after taking on the CIO role for Nevada’s Clark County, Louis Carr Jr. announced Oct. 14 that he would be leaving to lead IT operations for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power General. As Clark County’s CIO, Carr managed $45 million in operations, 160 employees and IT across 38 departments. He planned to leave the county in mid-November.

In another IT staff change for Philadelphia, Civic Tech Director Aaron Ogle left his position with the city for a new opportunity, taking on a role with an organization that holds similar goals. Ogle will serve as director of product for the OpenGov Foundation, a civic tech group working to further transparency in state and local legislatures.

The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications announced Oct. 24 that San Francisco CIO Miguel Gamiño Jr. accepted its CTO post, which was left vacant in August when Minerva Tantoco departed. In San Francisco, Gamiño worked to connect the city through a comprehensive wireless network project and developed partnerships with the tech industry to bolster connectivity with a municipal sensor network.

Longtime San Antonio Chief Information and Technology Officer Hugh Miller announced in October that he would be leaving public service for a job with a technology startup. Prior to his role with the city, Miller worked as a network engineer for travel website Priceline and as a network service supervisor with the San Antonio Water System.


Just 11 days after the New Year began, Rhode Island announced the appointment of longtime education and technology advocate Richard Culatta. His new role as the chief innovation officer marked a first for the state and an opportunity to pursue new educational partnerships and innovations.

Richard Culatta, chief innovation officer of Rhode Island
Richard Culatta is the first chief innovation officer for the state of Rhode Island. Photo by David Kidd.

February marked a busy month in the Texas Department of Information Resources with the placement of Stacey Napier as executive director. Former Executive Director/state CIO Karen Robinson stepped down at the end of 2014. Since that time, Todd Kimbriel filled in as acting CIO, a post he assumed permanently in March.

Alaska’s Enterprise Technology Services confirmed Feb. 22 that CIO Jim Bates would be moving on from the agency in mid-March. Bates said at the time that he planned to pursue his consulting business. During his tenure with the state, Bates worked on major IT projects including infrastructure upgrades and inventories. He also worked to cut the $10 million in annual spending on voice, data and circuits in half.

In true techie fashion, Boston’s Curt Savoie announced his departure from city employment via Twitter Feb. 11. The city’s principal data scientist officially made the jump to Massachusetts’ IT department as a data scientist five days later. In his tweet, the data aficionado hinted that his work to improve the neighborhoods of Boston would be translated to the broader state landscape.

In mid-March, Gov. Charlie Baker appointed former Revenue Commissioner Mark Nunnelly to lead the state’s IT agency, MassIT, as executive director. Nunnelly was tasked with spearheading efforts to make state government IT more user-friendly for constituents. He was preceded by CIO Bill Oates, who resigned in 2015, and Charlie Desourdy, who held the interim leadership spot.

The departure of New Jersey CIO Steve Emanuel on April 8 marked an opportunity for Odysseus Marcopolus, who stepped up to fill in as acting CIO. At the time, Marcopolus had been with the state’s Office of Information Technology for less than a year and was serving as the agency’s director of Architecture, Standards and Enterprise Technologies.

The MetroLab Network added an important figure to its collection of senior fellows May 5. The group announced the addition of former presidential candidate and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who will assist in the organization’s larger mission of building city-university partnerships nationwide.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appointed the state’s first CTO, Dave Weinstein, on June 20, and elevated the position to the cabinet level. Weinstein was formerly the chief information security officer (CISO) in the state’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.

The Kansas Department of Transportation announced a “drone czar” position, naming longtime pilot and retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bob Brock in July. The new position, meant to regulate drone use in Kansas, was reportedly the first of its kind and a step into a new regulatory frontier, but some in the state criticized the timing and necessity for the new role.

In another major appointment for New Jersey, Mike Geraghty was named the first director for the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell July 6. The appointment is the agency’s first director since its creation by Gov. Chris Christie in 2015.

After serving as California’s interim state CIO for three months, Amy Tong officially stepped into the leadership role at the end of June. Tong succeeded former CIO Carlos Ramos, who stepped down in March. The incoming CIO formerly served in the Office of Systems Integration and the California State Lottery.

In another July job move, California named its first chief data officer. The newly minted title was given to private-sector executive Zachary Townsend of San Francisco. The CDO will work out of the California Government Operations Agency.

Wyoming CIO Flint Waters revealed a change in career direction in September when he announced he was leaving the public sector for a position at tech giant Google. The new role, within the Google for Work team, will focus on building partnerships with the company’s public-sector clients. A week after that announcement, Gov. Matt Mead appointed Tony Young, his deputy chief of staff, as the state’s new CIO. Though Mead said in a statement that Young has helped with technology projects, his background is largely legal in nature.

One of the driving forces behind North Carolina’s Innovation Center stepped aside for a new private-sector role. Chief Technology and Innovation Officer Eric Ellis left state service for hardware and software reseller SHI International. He held the technology and innovation position since January, and formerly served as the CTO for multiple state agencies, including the departments of Environmental Quality and Commerce.

Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy appointed Arthur House as the state’s first cybersecurity czar. House had been chairman of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority where his work included ensuring the security of electricity, natural gas and water systems.

After more than 25 years in public-sector service, one of California’s chief technologists announced Oct. 31 that he would be retiring in early 2017. Robert Schmidt was appointed chief of the state’s Office of Technology Services in September 2015 after serving as CIO for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, where he managed a staff of more than 70 people and a $10 million annual operational budget.

Colorado announced Nov. 2 the hiring of its first digital transformation officer. The role, which may be a first in state government, is filled by Brandon Williams, who led Colorado’s Google Services team for the last four years. Williams will work with state agencies to align user and customer experience with strategic business plans and ensure the state’s public-facing websites and other digital touch points are efficient and easy to use.


Office of Personnel Management (OPM) CIO Donna Seymour announced her retirement just two days before she was scheduled to testify at a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on a data breach that compromised the records of more than 22 million current and former government employees. The office continued to see changes to its tech leadership as the year went on. In an expected addition to the IT lineup, OPM hired its first CISO in April. The CISO, Cord Chase, is a former senior adviser on Cyber and National Security to the White House and Office of Management and Budget, and technology head and engineer at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And in September, David DeVries, the CIO for the U.S. Department of Defense, was named OPM’s new CIO. While with the Defense Department, DeVries helped launch an electronic records system for Veterans Affairs and expanded cloud adoption and mobile capabilities.

Washington, D.C.’s first director of technology innovation left local government and made his way to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Matt Bailey announced in an April 26 tweet that he would be working on tech policy as part of U.S. CIO Tony Scott’s team. Before joining local government, Bailey was a user experience manager for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and was a founding member of the Code for D.C. Brigade.

After two months in her new role as commissioner of the General Services Administration’s (GSA) newly created Technology Transformation Service, Phaedra Chrousos returned to the private sector. Chrousos joined the GSA in 2014, first serving as a chief customer officer and then later as an associate administrator at the Office of Citizen Services and 18F.

Phaedra Chrousos
In July, Phaedra Chrousos returned to the private sector. Photo by David Kidd.

Once a skeptic of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), Seattle Police Department CTO Bill Schrier joined the organization. As FirstNet develops an interoperable nationwide communications network for first responders, Schrier’s role will be to help the federal agency build a set of services and functions that public safety agencies need and to convince those agencies to use the network.

The federal government innovation group 18F hired the Sunlight Foundation’s senior technology adviser, Waldo Jaquith, to further its open data work. In a July tweet, Jaquith announced that he would be joining the digital consultancy in September. He served as the director of U.S. Open Data, an organization that publishes government data online and as a member of the White House’s Open Data Working Group, which advises on policy and open source software design. Jaquith was recognized in Government Technology’s Top 25 of 2016.

An ongoing effort from the Obama administration to shore up the nation’s digital defenses was punctuated Sept. 8 by the creation of the federal CISO position. The first to fill the role is Gregory Touhill, a retired brigadier general and deputy assistant secretary of cybersecurity and communications for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Touhill will lead cybersecurity policy, planning and implementation across the organization, which includes the federated offices of the U.S. government.

Aaron Snow left his role as executive director of 18F on Oct. 13. Snow, who co-founded the digital services outfit in 2014, is staying within the General Services Administration as a senior adviser to the commissioner of the Technology Transformation Service that oversees 18F, according to an internal memo. V. David Zvenyach, 18F’s director of acquisition management, is serving as interim executive director.