Minnesota appoints new CIO to fix struggling vehicle license and title system

The incoming IT commissioner, Johanna Clyborne, says fixing the 3 million system is her highest priority.

Gov. Mark Dayton has appointed one of the Minnesota National Guard’s top officers as the state’s newest chief information officer and commissioner of Minnesota IT Services (MNIT).

On Wednesday, the governor’s office announced the appointment of Johanna Clyborne, director of the joint staff for the Minnesota National Guard and partner of a family-law practice, to replace the outgoing commissioner, Tom Baden. Baden, who announced the end of his 36-year run in government in December, citing health issues, will officially pass the torch to Clyborne in early February.

Charged with leading an IT agency with a $475 million budget, Clyborne, who holds the rank of brigadier general, “will focus on delivering high quality customer service, keeping Minnesotans safe and secure online, and effectively managing the technology services of state government,” according to the governor’s office.

At a press conference, Dayton named four top priorities for Clyborne:

  • Integrating legacy IT systems that don’t work well together.
  • Getting more cybersecurity funding from the legislature.
  • Meeting an October deadline to comply with new federal guidelines on driver’s licenses and identification cards.
  • Fixing the state’s online vehicle titling and registration system, known as the Minnesota License and Registration System (MNLARS).

The state technology office has faced ongoing criticism from both the public and the legislature to fix MNLARS, on which the state spent $93 million and more than a decade developing leading up to its launch in July, 2017. Since then, system glitches have led to delays and errors for the insurance industry, local government bodies and business owners who run or depend on the state’s 174 licensing offices. As of Dec. 1, the system had 379,591 titles in its backlog, according to a local news outlet.

And though the state has reportedly made headway on its backlog, the governor’s office is owning up to the problem, flagging the system’s repair as one of its top goals. The governor’s office says the state “will not rest” until MNLARS is “done right.”

Clyborne called the system “vitally important.”

“Right now, there is no service that more urgently requires our time, attention, and expertise than MNLARS,” Clyborne said. “Important improvements have already been made to the system in recent months, and that progress must continue. We will not rest until we get this project done right, and continue to provide excellent service to the people of Minnesota.”


As MNIT works on a solution to the massive IT system, it also faces an upcoming deadline. In October, the state will reach the end of its deadline extension to meet new federal standards for driver’s licenses and identification cards.

Minnesota is one of 26 states that was granted a deadline extension by the Department of Homeland Security to comply with the REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005 as a way to cut down on identity fraud. Federal agencies, most notably the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), began enforcing the new standards on Jan. 22, but states that received a deadline extension, like Minnesota, will have until October to meet the new standards.

As Clyborne takes on these challenges, she will continue working at her law practice, Brekke, Clyborne & Ribich LLC, one day per week.

Dayton said Clyborne’s background — which includes 29 years of military experience — has prepared her for these tasks.

“General Clyborne’s extensive experience in organizational management, operations, and cybersecurity have prepared her well for the unique challenges of this critically important position,” Dayton said.

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