How the election could change state technology


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The results from Tuesday’s election are still rather fresh, but they are already pointing toward what will likely be a tumultuous few months in the state government technology community.

With 10 new governors coming into office following an election cycle that saw 36 governorships up for grabs, new leadership at the top likely means a new head for state technology as well. While not always the case – last year Terry McAuliffe in Virginia kept the state’s technology leadership relatively in place – plenty of turnover is expected within state CIO offices between now and the early part of next year.

To help make sense of all the election results, StateScoop takes a look at some of the results and what they are likely to mean for the state government technology community.

Arkansas and Texas: These states were already experiencing a change in their technology leadership after Texas CIO Karen Robinson and Arkansas CTO Claire Bailey announced last month they are stepping down from their positions. Robinson will retire at the end of this calendar year while Bailey left immediately for health reasons.

The decision on their replacement will now come to two new governors.

In Texas, Republican Governor-Elect Greg Abbott, the state’s attorney general under Gov. Rick Perry, will not directly select Robinson’s replacement, but will pick the members of a governing board that will. Based on the job Robinson and her team did to solidify the state’s technology – most notably the data center outsourcing project – there’s a good chance Abbott could pick someone already with the organization to keep a level of continuity after years of uneasiness.

In Arkansas, Republican Asa Hutchinson takes over for Democrat Mike Beebe, who was ineligible to run because of term limits. With the Arkansas Department of Information Services serving as a Cabinet-level agency, expect Hutchinson to bring in someone from the outside to run the agency once he’s in office.

Pennsylvania: In a move everyone saw coming, Democrat Tom Wolf easily took down incumbent Republican Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania as the governor had one of the worst public approval ratings in the country.

Considering state CIO Tony Encinias was appointed by Corbett, it’s likely that Wolf will want to bring in his own person. The only caveat may be the progress of the state’s $681 million on-demand cloud computing solution that was announced in July and has become a model as to which other state governments are looking for to structure their own cloud services.

With such a large project just underway, there’s a small possibility that Wolf opts to not disrupt that and keep Encinias, but the likelihood is a change in the coming months.

Florida:  Republican Rick Scott held on to his governorship in Florida with a victory over former governor Charlie Crist, in what was  perhaps the technology community’s most notable re-election. This now puts Scott in position to pick his full-time leader for the new Florida Technology Agency, which will be the state’s first over-arching technology agency in three years.

Scott named Jason Allison to be the state’s interim CIO this summer shortly after the agency launched in a placeholder move intended to get the agency started, but not make any first commitments with the election looming.

With Scott now set to return, it would be a major surprise if Allison, who has worked a number of high-level technology jobs in the Scott administration, were not named the full-time CIO.

Illinois: in perhaps the night’s most surprising result, Republican Bruce Rauner unseated Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in his bid for re-election.

That will surely mean a new state CIO, likely from outside the organization, as current CIO Sean Vinck has served as one of Quinn’s top supporters before he even became governor.

Vinck, who holds a law degree from Notre Dame, served as Quinn’s legislative council when Quinn was the state’s lieutenant governor and held the same job, along with the job of chief of intergovernmental affairs, early in Quinn’s administration before becoming CIO.

While Vinck has done a remarkable job in structuring the state’s technology – his peers voted him one of StateScoop’s executives of the year earlier this year – his close ties to the Quinn administration means someone new will come to take his place.

Maryland: A few months ago it looked like Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown would walk his way to the governor’s mansion, but a comeback from Republican Larry Hogan now has change coming to Maryland.

Isabel FitzGerald, the state’s Secretary for Information Technology, has not been in office too long (she was just appointed in August of 2013) and was a shoe-in to stay if Brown were re-elected.

Her focus in office since that time has been fixing Maryland’s troubled healthcare exchange, a problem she inherited upon coming into office, but one she’s made great strides to fix.

With the next phase of open enrollment coming, there’s a small chance FitzGerald could stay on to see that project through, but in all likelihood Hogan will want to pick his own person for that position.

Another thing to watch in Maryland will be how Hogan sees the use of information technology considering he will replace O’Malley, who was seen as one of the state technology community’s most supportive governors.

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers recognized as much, awarding him its National Technology Champion Award in 2010 in recognition of his outstanding contributions to promote government performance excellence through sound information technology solutions, policies and practice.

Hawaii: Finally, the folks in the Hawaiian islands will have a new governor as Democrat David Ige takes over for Neil Abercrombie, who he defeated in the primaries following a catastrophic few months for Abercrombie in the public’s eyes.

While Ige will bring in a new administration there has to be some thought that he could keep current CIO Keone Kali in place based on the state’s history. Before Abercrombie’s tenure, Hawaii’s state technology was viewed as one of the worst in the nation, but the governor brought in federal government technology veteran Sonny Bhagowalia to right the ship.

Bhagowalia instituted an aggressive modernization plan that once it made significant progress, Bhagowalia took a more advisory position and picked Kali to be his successor.

Considering the state has a troubled history with technology, there is some belief that Ige should keep Kali in place to keep the momentum of the previous administration as the modernization has begun, but is still not complete.

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Chief Information Officer (CIO), Economy, Governor, Innovation, State & Local News