Socially minded

As director of electronic services at the Social Security Administration, Tony Trenkle works in an office that is responsible for using the Internet as a tool to help improve business practices at SSA.

Trenkle, a 13-year veteran of the federal government, this year accepted his position with SSA after working for 10 years as director of the Electronic Commerce Office at the General Services Administration.

His reason for leaving GSA is simple—and one that can be appreciated by anyone who has experienced rush hour on Washington, D.C.'s Beltway.

"The opportunity to have a shorter commute was probably a key reason why I left GSA," said Trenkle, who lives only 15 minutes from his SSA office. "I liked working with GSA, but I'm fortunate to have this opportunity."

Trenkle said his GSA experience gave him a governmentwide IT perspective that has made his transition to SSA easier. The experience provided him with firsthand understanding of how other agencies are mainstreaming technology.

"It taught me about partnering with other organizations and to draw upon other resources outside SSA," Trenkle said. "It gave me an appreciation of what other agencies are doing outside SSA."

Devotion to the Public

Trenkle said he became interested in technology while growing up in Baltimore, influenced by his father's work as an electronics engineer.

But Trenkle's desire to apply his technology skills in the public sector developed during an internship with NASA that lasted two-and-a-half years.

"I was always interested in the public and how to make the lives of others better," Trenkle said. "I feel like I'm playing a significant role in the public sector, whereas in the private sector the bottom line is profit."Trenkle, who is married with two children, worked in the private sector for nine years in technology-related jobs that ranged from installing long-distance service equipment to putting a satellite dish on the roof-top of a major department store. "I've done it all," Trenkle said.

Despite his varied background in technology, Trenkle does not consider himself a bona fide computer geek: "I'm someone who knows enough to be dangerous," Trenkle said. "But I'm not 100 percent geek. I'm half-techie, not a pure-techie."

Trenkle has had success landing technology jobs even though he majored in economics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He continued his studies in that area with graduate-level business courses at Loyola College in Baltimore.

Paper's Role

Regardless of his formal training, Trenkle has strong opinions about the use of information technology. He thinks it should not be viewed as a tool to replace paper but rather as a complement to all media.SSA is trying to comply with the Government Paperwork Elimination Act, which requires agencies to have in place by October 2003 systems that provide the public with the option of submitting government forms electronically whenever possible.

But Trenkle cautions against eliminating paperwork completely.

"I don't like the term 'paperless,' " Trenkle said. "The goal should not be to get rid of paper. The goal is to use IT to improve how we do business and serve clients. The goal should be to improve services. If getting rid of the paper doesn't improve how we work, it doesn't improve anything. It just changes the medium."Trenkle this year helped complete an Internet project at SSA to benefit the elderly. "Access America for Seniors," which provides government services electronically to seniors (www.seniors.gov) is one of Trenkle's proudest accomplishment so far at SSA.

SSA helped produce the site with the National Partnership for Reinventing Government, Trenkle said."Five years from now, I hope that SSA is delivering most of its services via Internet," Trenkle said. "I hope to be here helping move things forward."

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