McGeorge School of Law

Government Technology Magazine lists Professor Clark Kelso as One of Nation's Top CIOs

September 14, 2006

Professor J. Clark Kelso has been listed by Government Technology, one of the nation's leading magazines on public sector information technology, as one of the top 25 public sector CIOs in the country. The story, written by Associate Editor Shane Peterson, appears in the March 2005 issue of Government Technology.

California's Turnaround Specialist

After two successful stints as a turnaround expert at troubled state agencies, it's no surprise J. Clark Kelso was asked to be interim CIO of California in early 2002.

He already resurrected the state's Department of Insurance after a scandal that included the resignation of the department's commissioner. That was followed by then-Gov. Gray Davis nominating Kelso to lead the California Earthquake Authority, which was being investigated by the Bureau of State Audits.

Kelso took over as interim CIO just a couple of months before California's Department of Information Technology was allowed to wither on the vine by legislators, who didn't pass legislation extending the life of the troubled agency. Kelso had no IT agency and no statutory authority. He's said in past interviews with Government Technology magazine that having no regular CIO trappings actually worked in his favor.

"There are two things at this point I'm most pleased about," he said. "We've made such substantial progress on consolidation of our major data centers, and we're very close to the very formal statutory consolidation. We've made an enormous amount of progress in getting the two data centers to work together.

"The second is the publication of our state strategic plan for IT," he said. "That was the result of a nice 18-month process that wrapped up in November/December last year. We probably had 50, 60 people who touched the document itself, plus a bunch of others who were, in essence, providing support in decision-making over the last 18 months."

Getting to this stage required Kelso to do plenty of what he says he's good at: "boundary spanning." These talents are put to good use in his other title as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Special Adviser on Information Technology.

There's a reason Kelso is one of a handful of Davis appointees kept on after Schwarzenegger's regime change: He has managed to bring the beginnings of cohesion to IT in California's executive branch, which is no mean feat.

"In an organization as large as California state government, you don't do this by dictating results," he said. "You do it by respecting people's views and listening to them, and them respecting your views and everybody beginning to develop a consensus and a realization about what is best for everyone, even though it, at times, requires some individual sacrifice.

"It's the basic problem of collective action."