Amtower: Accolades are overdue

Jim Ridgell has created venues for government and industry to better serve citizens.

There have been several major market shifts in how the government does business in the past 34 years. Since Congress passed the Brooks Act in 1972, major shifts have occurred that impact how we do business with Uncle Sam. The General Services Administration seemed to initiate a new program every year in the 1980s — remember the “grand design”? — and then there were the massive procurement reforms of the 1990s.

Some of the people responsible for improving the way business is conducted have done so behind the scenes, with less recognition than many who have done less. One of those people is Jim Ridgell.

Ridgell began his government service in 1956 as a clerk typist and was assigned a new task shortly thereafter: to become a computer operator for the Army Map Service on one of the early government computers, the Univac 1. He spent 25 years in government, working in several departments, and he was always moving up in the growing information technology community.

In the 1970s, there were about 10 regional automatic data processing councils for federal, state and local government computer professionals. In 1979, Frank Carr, a senior GSA official, asked the leaders of those regional councils to form a coalition to share information on a larger, more formal basis. Ridgell was one of those leaders. As a result of that initial meeting, a board of directors was formed and a president elected.

The new organization was the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils (FGIPC), now the American Council for Technology, and Ridgell became the first president. The first Management of Change conference occurred the next year.

He soon left federal service and went to work for Martin Marietta in Denver. Even while working in industry, Ridgell stayed involved in FGIPC. One of the original FGIPC bylaws was to reach out to industry for advice. FGIPC members did not have an active outreach program in the 1980s, so he took it upon himself to pursue that mission.

Working through FGIPC and with the help of industry veterans such as Phil Kiviat and Izzy Feldman, Ridgell started the Industry Advisory Council in 1989 and became the founding chairman. After he suffered a heart attack a year later, he moved back to Denver.

From Denver, Ridgell managed to stay involved. He helped the Denver IAC — the only regional IAC group, of which he was chairman — and the Western Information Technology Council. For half a century, Ridgell has been deeply involved in improving the way government uses IT. His efforts have also been critical in creating venues in which government and industry can meet to find ways to improve how the government provides services to citizens.

Never seeking the spotlight, he has always been there to help, lead, agitate and just get things done.

Appreciation for those who got us to where we are today is long overdue. Thanks for everything, Jim.

Amtower, of www.federaldirect.com, is a federal marketing consultant and founding partner of Amtower and Co.

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