Louisiana Chief Information Officer Richard “Dickie” Howze was awarded this week with the National Association of State Chief Information Officers’ Decade of Leadership Award for his 10 years of service as the state’s top tech official.
Howze is one of only a few of CIOs to achieve this milestone, first serving under then-Gov. Bobby Jindal and then retaining his role after John Bel Edwards’ 2015 victory.
Howze began his career with the state’s Department of Children and Family Services and stayed for 34 years. He ended his time at the agency as its undersecretary before the state’s IT offices were consolidated under the Louisiana Office of Technology Services in 2014.
He was appointed as CIO later that year and oversaw migration of employees and spending authority to the technology bureau, though the transition was not without bumps.
Over the last 10 years, Howze said, he’s proud of the implementation of the state’s new accounting system, as well as modernizing the state’s legacy financial, budget and HR systems.
“It’s called LaGov,” he said of the state’s enterprise resource planning platform. “And so we’ve modernized that technology and been able to take advantage of knowing that we’re now running supported hardware and that will remain so going forward, we always keep it updated.”
In 2016, Howze said, the state created a Cybersecurity Commission. More recently, the state added an emergency support function within the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness to proactively handle cybersecurity issues. He compared the function’s response to how the state handles hurricanes.
“So we activate resources so that we can respond to items that are deemed to be critical infrastructure, so that we can protect the state’s assets, and we can help those that are impacted recover,” he said. “We kind of consider ourselves to be on the forefront of the leaning forward, if you will, properly positioning yourself to protect rather than to respond after something happens.”
Howze thanked his team and Bel Edwards, whose administration Howze said provided “unprecedented support” in his office’s modernizations efforts.
In a NASCIO press release, Tennessee CIO Stephanie Dedmon praised Howze’s work.
“Dickie’s leadership in the state of Louisiana can be seen in the state’s modernization and consolidation efforts and especially in their commitment to cybersecurity. He has also demonstrated his resilience by leading the CIO organization through the technology demands and impacts of major hurricanes and storm damage,” said Dedmon, NASCIO’s current president.
Bel Edwards is term limited out of the upcoming October election, meaning that the state’s next governor could appoint a new CIO. Howze told StateScoop he plans to stay on as CIO as long as the new governor desires, though he said retirement is “certainly on the list of possibilities.”
“I plan to be here for the new administration to transition to tell them and or to discuss what we do and why we do it and how we do it. And then you know, we’ll see what happens after that as to whether they want to make a change, because I am appointed by the governor,” he said. “And if they do then I’ll probably go on and retire and move on to the next chapter, so to speak.”