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Wyoming Interim CIO TR Sheehan Focused on Meeting Residents’ Needs

TR Sheehan, a longtime Wyoming executive serving for a second time as interim CIO, is working to understand what citizens need from their government and providing them with technology-based solutions to do just that.

Wyoming Capitol under blue sky.
Wyoming’s interim CIO TR Sheehan has done this job before and knows how he wants to approach IT: from a citizen-centric perspective.

This is Sheehan’s second time in the interim role, which he told Government Technology allowed him to “hit the ground running.” His first stint as interim CIO was in 2021, before Gov. Mark Gordon picked Alaska CIO Bill Vajda to lead Wyoming tech. When Vajda resigned as CIO less than a year later, Sheehan was tapped once again. He has more than two decades’ experience in IT across the public, private and education sectors, and has been with the state of Wyoming more than 10 years.
Wyoming Interim CIO TR Sheehan
Wyoming Interim CIO TR Sheehan
Image courtesy of Wyoming ETS.

A big part of Sheehan’s work, he said in an interview, is shaping the digital citizen experience through the state’s new citizen engagement portal. The ultimate goal is for it to be a one-stop shop for residents. Its rollout this year will start smaller scale, a couple state agencies at a time, to ensure it works well for the citizens that use it. Residents’ needs inform Wyoming’s perspective on policy, too, the CIO said.

“Of course, we want to do it in an ethical manner — in a manner that makes sense for Wyoming and [for] what our citizens would want to see out of such a policy,” he said.

With 86 agency boards and commissions in the state, Sheehan said educating their leaders is key to major undertakings like the citizen portal — letting them know how the platform will help them do their work more effectively: “Here are some shared services that we can offer across multiple agencies, and here's how our citizens will benefit from that.” He underscored the value of partnerships with early adopters to help demonstrate quick wins.

Wyoming is also undertaking an identity-focused project, the CIO said, to understand residents’ needs around citizen ID. While he noted that large government may be a concern for Wyoming residents, Sheehan said it’s important to make government services more easily accessible. On the employee side, he said the state is exploring identity access management cards, which can be difficult from a cost standpoint.

“So, we're trying to see how we can secure our services and citizen data, but not have to break the bank doing it,” he said.

A top IT priority is investing in cybersecurity. Officials have been working to establish the state’s first Security Operations Center and in January, Gov. Gordon asked the state Joint Appropriations Committee for 37 positions “to increase the investment in IT and cybersecurity.” This work, the CIO said, is collaborative not only with other branches of government and elected officials, but with local governments around the state. Through these partnerships, Sheehan said, the state can help build capacity for local governments that are limited in their resources, and better position them to ensure security.

Serving on the state’s Cyber Assistance Response Effort team, Sheehan said, helps him forge these collaborations and share expertise; and tech-related conversations can provide insight into jurisdictions’ needs. Cybersecurity is a major topic, but so is generative artificial intelligence technology.

As a state with a large land area but small population, Sheehan said there are limited resources available to government agencies. That small population, though, makes Wyoming agile, said the CIO, noting that despite not always being the first to adopt new technology, his state has been the site of software pilots from major tech companies. He said there is some interest in how different technologies could help offset size limitations, but the state is taking a conservative approach to ensure any investments in AI are effective and informed. There, too, said Sheehan, “education is key.”

Cybersecurity is at the forefront of tech conversations because of its impact on people’s daily lives, but Sheehan said technical debt is another challenge the state is facing. He is being proactive by educating appropriators on what technical debt is and the risk it poses to the state and citizens.

“Technology is no different than major maintenance or capital construction,” Sheehan said of his approach to communicate the issue’s importance. “If you ignore it, that building is going to come down.”
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.