New Virginia governor to retain CIO Nixon


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Choosing progress over politics, new Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Wednesday the reappointment of Sam Nixon, the state’s chief information officer, along with 16 other agency heads across the commonwealth.

Nixon, the state’s CIO since 2010, has held that position since early in the administration of previous Gov. Bob McDonnell. Before that, Nixon served nine terms as a state senator.

There was speculation that Nixon’s strong Republican ties would make the Democratic McAuliffe look for a state technology leader who was more in line with his political ideology, but that turned out not to be the case.

Instead, McAuliffe has kept the state’s technology leadership relatively intact, choosing to retain Nixon and promoting Karen Jackson to secretary of technology after years of serving as the state’s deputy under Jim Duffey.

In interviews with StateScoop, both Duffey and Nixon said the state’s information technology has stabilized over the past few years following a rocky beginning to the state’s large outsourcing agreement with Northrop Grumman.

Virginia is one of the few states to outsource all of its IT to an outside vendor, but after signing a 10-year, $2.3 billion contract in 2005, saw early troubles that included missed deadlines, cost overruns, poor performance, numerous complaints from state agencies, threatened lawsuits and the firing of a top state official.

McDonnell extended the contract in 2010, saying it was more cost effective for the state than trying to install a new system, despite the early struggles. Since that time, Nixon and Duffey have moved the outsourcing agreement in a positive direction; 86 of the state’s 89 executive-level agencies are now using the shared infrastructure. That’s opposed to the roughly 20 that were there when they entered office in early 2010 when the contract was already more than four years into service.

“We’ve entered into a phase now where the contract is stabilized and is starting to function how it was envisioned,” Duffey said. “The contractor and the [Virginia Information Technologies Agency] are working closely as a team and our issue today is not the infrastructure, but responding quickly to work order requests.”

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States, Virginia