South Dakota’s CIO retires after more than 44 years in state government

William “David” Zolnowsky leaves behind a legacy of precision, patience and pragmatism.

One of state government IT’s veteran stalwarts has retired.

South Dakota Chief Information Officer William “David” Zolnowsky logged his final hours on March 30 with the state government where he worked for more than 44 years. An official confirmed the news with StateScoop on Tuesday.

In a blog post that includes recollections submitted by Zolnowsky’s family members, the character of the man behind the dedicated public servant is brought to life. His wife recalls a federal hiring freeze under President Richard Nixon that led Zolnowsky to his first role with South Dakota government as a programmer with the state Department of Transportation in 1973. His son lauds his father’s attention to detail and problem-solving capabilities, “which he perfected by remaining calm and rational at all times.”

State Chief Security Officer Jim Edman, who says he first met Zolnowsky in 1984, recalls a man whose approach has “always been rooted in a pragmatic perspective.”


The two worked together at Dakota State University and later the Bureau of Information and Telecommunications, from which Zolnowsky now departs.

“While politics can clutter the message and intent, Z had the ability to see through it and assist with a clear plan,” Edman says.

During his career, Zolnowsky has watched as technology used by government and the public at large has transformed, often assisting with the transformation inside state government’s offices. Zolnowsky has held positions with the Unified Judicial System, the Department of Health, and Central Data Processing, BIT’s precursor.

He helped pioneer the consolidated IT environment that South Dakota state government enjoys today and in the late 1990s helped plan the infrastructure behind the K-12 Data Center that the state says is the only one of its kind in the country.

Zolnowsky left behind some parting advice for those who carry government’s mission onward.


“Work to the best of your abilities,” Zolnowsky says. “Continue to develop your work skills (and your hobby skills), prepare yourself to accept new challenges, seek advice from others — even those you (mistakenly) believe have little to offer, resist the temptation to be the first to respond to a question, listen, smile often.”

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