Kentucky CIO to step down

Kentucky Governor's Office of Technology

Three months after Aldona Valicenti became Kentucky's first chief information officer she was called to testify about the state's Year 2000 preparation.

An auditor had just read a blistering account stating that the commonwealth would not be ready. Then the House committee chairman asked Valicenti whether Kentucky would be prepared and if she had enough authority. She said yes to both questions, but the chairman then asked how she knew she had enough authority to handle the situation.

She told him: "Mr. Chairman, I have seized it." Afterwards, the chairman told Valicenti, "We're going to be just fine."

Six years later, Valicenti has maintained that commanding attitude, emerging as one of the nation's most well-respected, recognizable and sought-after technology authorities. But now that she has fulfilled her commitment of staying through the end of Gov. Paul Patton's term, she will resign at the end of the week.

A vanguard among state government CIOs, Valicenti is an expert on just about everything from communications interoperability to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. She was even invited to Japan to help establish an organization similar to National Association of State Chief Information Officers -- an organization she once led and helped elevate to a point where it now exerts some clout at the congressional level.

In fact, after testifying at a recent House committee hearing on communications interoperability, Rep. Edward Schrock (R-Va.) said he was saddened to hear Valicenti is resigning and publicly thanked her for her knowledge and experience in working with federal lawmakers.

"It just totally blew me away," said Valicenti, recalling Schrock's compliments. "I have never seen that before."

She said this week she'll probably decide her next move. Valicenti has been offered a position in the federal government and been recruited by a couple of other states, though she didn't mention where. But she's also never worked in higher education "and of all the things I've done in the private sector, I've never worked for an IT company," she added.

Regardless, she said she wants a position with enough exposure to the public sector and hopes to continue to provide assistance to NASCIO in some capacity.

Among her accomplishments in Kentucky, she pointed to improving operational efficiency -- such as consolidating e-mail across state agencies and even among some higher education institutions and implementing desktop standards -- to streamline costs.

She spearheaded development of project management standards and procedures, helped establish CIO positions in every agency and create a CIO advisory council, and tried to educate lawmakers and others about technology issues.

Having worked in private industry for 22 years before her Kentucky stint, Valicenti arrived in state government not knowing much about it. "It allowed me to start with a clean slate," she said.

But another reason for her success -- and probably the prime one -- is establishing credibility with lawmakers and other government officials. "I think you have to be honest and have to be upfront and have tell them what you're going to do to fix it," she said.

Continued state concerns include consolidation, procurement laws, and privacy and security Valicenti said.


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