2020 StateScoop 50 Awards honor top leaders, projects in state IT

Scoop News Group, StateScoop’s parent company, announced on Thursday the winners of the 2020 StateScoop 50 Awards.

Presented for its seventh year, the StateScoop 50 awards honor the projects and people driving state government technology and cybersecurity. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the awards were presented virtually for the first time. In previous years, the awards ceremony and announcement coincided with the midyear conference of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers. Both the midyear and annual conference were moved to a virtual format this year.

Starting in February, members of the state and local IT community nominated thousands of leaders and projects for the awards. From there, StateScoop narrowed the list to the 182 finalists who received the most nominations. Between March and June 2020, readers cast more than 2 million votes nationally between March and April to select the final winners. Executive-level winners were honored Thursday at a virtual roundtable event, sponsored by Google Cloud and Duo Security, now part of Cisco Systems.

“It’s an honor and delight to recognize the top 50 leaders in our community,” said Goldy Kamali, founder and CEO of Scoop News Group, StateScoop’s parent company. “Each of the leaders recognized has gone above and beyond for our community this year, in spite of unprecedented challenges at home and at work. These reader’s choice awards honor the best leaders from across the state government community, and acknowledge the important work they are doing to make government better each and every day.”

The winners span more than a dozen states and eight private sector companies. Award winners for 2020 include executive-level elected officials like Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, as well as more junior up-and-coming leaders.

“We know that the work you do is about much more than servers and firewalls,” said Jake Williams, StateScoop’s associate publisher and director of strategic initiatives. “It’s about getting people what they need, serving the community and being a beacon of hope in times that force us to rework everything we know about how government connects to the citizen. Though this year’s StateScoop 50 Awards honor projects and people from a pre-COVID-19 time, we quickly saw the the impact of them as you all responded to the pandemic. Even more than in past years, we are endlessly thankful to be a part of this community.”

As part of the virtual announcement, winners will be featured in a series of podcasts. The first episode will highlight the winners of the GoldenGov: State Executive of the Year category. Winners will also be featured in a video interview, and are highlighted in the edited versions of their nomination biographies below.

The winners:

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Lookman Fazal

Lookman Fazal

GoldenGov: State Executive of the Year

Lookman Fazal currently serves as the chief information officer and chief digital officer of NJ Transit. By bringing nearly 20 years of private-sector experience to the country’s largest public transit system, Fazal has implemented an intra-departmental digital transformation that includes onboarding top-tier talent and utilizing innovative technologies across multiple platforms to rebuild the customer journey with a focus on user experience. This has shown to be a net positive — NJ Transit’s digital ticket sales now comprise 55% of its total revenue. More than 100,000 customers have installed the redesigned mobile app, and more than 176,000 trips have been booked online.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, daily ridership dropped and the NJ Transit workforce went remote. Thankfully, the agency had made significant investments in the foundational technologies like core infrastructure, a move from desktops to laptops, collaboration tools and others in advance of the crisis.

“With the COVID pandemic hitting, nobody really had a choice to work from the building, you have to work from home unless you are absolutely required to be there,” Fazal told StateScoop. “[Those modernization efforts were] already underway, so we were well-prepared. So when the pandemic hit, we basically converted the company to a remote company overnight.”

This week, NJ Transit announced the addition of a feature to its mobile app that allows riders to avoid waiting for overcrowded buses and trains.

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Ron Guerrier

Ron Guerrier

GoldenGov: State Executive of the Year

Ron Guerrier returned to his home state to serve as the Illinois chief information officer and secretary of the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology. Guerrier’s mantra of “Let’s Go” was quickly adopted and Illinois DoIT launched an ambitious course to strengthen and improve the state’s IT foundation. Guerrier led a “back to the basics” strategy, advanced STEM outreach across the state and worked to build a diverse environment among employees and suppliers. From speaking to senior leaders on international stages to encouraging grade school students to consider careers in technology, Guerrier is masterful at making connections to improve the personal and professional worlds of those around him.

Guerrier announced in September — after the nominations and voting period for the StateScoop 50 Awards had closed — that he would leave his position as the state’s CIO. Shortly after, he was announced as the new global CIO for HP.

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Gov. Jared Polis

Gov. Jared Polis

GoldenGov: State Executive of the Year

Gov. Jared Polis is a catalyst in expanding virtual access and simplifying how Coloradans engage with state government. Under his administration, the innovative Colorado Digital ID launched within the myColorado mobile app. The Digital ID allows Coloradans to create a secure, electronic driver license or state ID on their smartphones as proof of identification, age and address within the state. Colorado is among the first states to offer a Digital ID to its residents. Among Gov. Polis’ other key priorities is expanding access to affordable and reliable broadband and continuing Colorado’s leadership in blockchain technology. This past year, rural broadband coverage expanded from 83% to 87% and the state’s first blockchain solution architect was hired.

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John Quinn

John Quinn

GoldenGov: State Executive of the Year

John Quinn was appointed in April 2017 as Vermont’s chief information officer and the first director of the state Agency of Digital Services. Since then, Quinn has helped the state embrace shared services and improved digital services across all state agencies. Quinn has been leading the establishment of a unified organizational structure for the state’s information technology portfolio. Under Quinn’s leadership, the agency addresses core technology and project management challenges that the state has been facing for decades. ADS will provide more efficient support for state employees and deliver better customer service while enhancing accountability. Prior to helping start the Agency of Digital Services, Quinn served as Gov. Phil Scott’s chief innovation officer. He’s served the state government since 2001.

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Christopher Rein

Christopher Rein

GoldenGov: State Executive of the Year

Chris Rein is the chief technology officer for the State of New Jersey. In this position, he leads the state’s Office of Information Technology — a 700-person team charged with operating the technology infrastructure for more than 50 state departments, agencies and offices. Rein was the former deputy director of the state’s Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell. In this role, he also served as the deputy state chief information security officer. Rein’s background includes 37 years developing, integrating and managing software, as well as holding leadership roles with large and complex information technology projects. Prior to joining the NJ Office of Homeland Security, Rein was the vice president and chief information officer for CSI Technology, a New Jersey software development company serving law enforcement, regulatory and judiciary markets.

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Sarah Steelman

Sarah Steelman

GoldenGov: State Executive of the Year

As commissioner for the Missouri Office of Administration, Sarah Steelman is leading the State of Missouri’s digital turnaround. Steelman helped design and now chairs the State of Missouri’s Cabinet IT Governance Council. For the first time ever, the Cabinet-level council manages the state’s portfolio of strategic IT investments, prioritizing and shifting resources as needed to deliver the most impact. A former state senator and treasurer, Steelman has been uniquely equipped to successfully make the case to the legislature for investments in the state’s critical systems, like a new ERP system and its staff’s capabilities to be a 21st century organization.

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