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County CIO Offers 6 Key Takeaways for Government

Nevada County’s award-winning chief information officer, Steve Monaghan, says he wants to help rural elected and professional government leaders adapt to technology and to prioritize risks.

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The award-winning chief information officer for a rural California county has published the first in a series of six essays for Rural County Representatives for California (RCRC), a 38-member county service organization that advocates for policies on behalf of rural counties.

Nevada County CIO Steve Monaghan’s first column is titled “6 Simple Ways County Leaders Can Execute Cyber-Risk Oversight,” in which he addresses cybersecurity and advises other county leaders on “effective ways to conduct adequate and diligent oversight of their county’s cybersecurity posture.”

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Navada County CIO Steve Monaghan

Monaghan has been Nevada County CIO – as well as the county’s Information and General Services Agency director, the Nevada County Emergency Services chief and the county purchasing agent – for almost 23 years. Under his leadership, its IT operation has won numerous top honors in the Center for Digital Government’s* Digital Counties Survey. Monaghan is also a past president and current member of the California County Information Services Directors Association (CCISDA), through which he created and helps lead training programs for current and emerging leaders. Monaghan also serves on RCRC’s Broadband Advisory Committee and on the Cybersecurity Program Advisory Board at California State University at Chico, where he received his bachelor’s degree in computer science.

Monaghan, who was the subject of a Techwire One-on-One interview in October, was honored as a Local Government CIO of the Year in 2016 at the California Public Sector CIO Academy awards. He was also named one of Government Technology* magazine’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers & Drivers in 2004, and received the Visionary Award for Information Technology Leadership from CCISDA.

The first of Monaghan’s columns for RCRC is published under the organization’s Digital Governance Series. He lays out and elaborates on six recommendations for elected officials and professionals in county government:
  • Ensure a framework for cybersecurity success is in place and functioning.
  • Require that a cybersecurity report be presented annually to the county’s board of supervisors.
  • Ask to see your county’s cybersecurity incident plan.
  • Ask whether your county has an active cybersecurity awareness training program.
  • Ask all your county’s department heads how they are addressing cyber risk in their departments.
  • Ensure your IT department has an adequate technical maturity level.

Monaghan told Techwire that since his first column was published on Dec. 10, “Feedback has been good so far. I have not seen direct insight into the metrics yet but have had people reach out to me for follow-up questions and materials.”

He said he was motivated to write by the expansion of technology initiatives and digital transformation beyond IT departments and throughout government.

“Civic solutions have become easier and easier for non-IT leaders to implement on their own, which is great,” Monaghan said. “However, doing and managing technology right and safely has never been more important to drive innovation and service our residents. Other tech-related issues like broadband are on the front pages daily now. The impacts of not doing DT (digital transformation) or doing it poorly have never been so high as well – think cyber risk, privacy, digital inclusion/equity, etc.”

County boards of supervisors are ultimately responsible for their organizations’ digital transformation and cyber risk management, he noted.

“As such, we felt it was important to write a series of articles to demystify some of the key county tech topics and principles in a nontechnical form and from a board member’s perspective in the context of their oversight responsibilities,” he told Techwire. “This will then drive better understanding, support and collaboration with their county IT folks, and thus better outcomes for their organization and communities. More informed leaders make better decisions.”

After his columns run, Monaghan said, he hopes to continue his outreach.

“I would like to keep it going in some form, as I think there is a real need for it,” he said. “It’s a challenge as while technology is the world to us CIO types, it is just a small pie slice of the organizational and community issues our government leaders face. Thus, trying to deliver it in a form and manner that is digestible to them is always challenging as we are competing for their attention with weighty issues like homelessness, affordable housing, public health, infrastructure, public safety, environment, etc.”

Monaghan said the essays are “just one small way” he’s found to “give back to the local government community, particularly over the last few years of my career.”

“I have a few other ideas and projects in the works that hopefully will give back and add value to our industry as well,” he said. “If my hard-learned lessons can help out another government professional in a small way with a challenge, improve on an idea or help avoid a mistake, then it’s worth it to me. I really believe it is our obligation as public servant leaders to pass it forward.”

*The Center for Digital Government is part of e.Republic, the parent company of Techwire and Government Technology magazine.
Dennis Noone is Managing Editor of Techwire. He is a career journalist, having worked as a reporter and editor at small-town newspapers and major metropolitan dailies in California, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, including as an editor with USA Today in Washington, D.C. He lives in the Northern California foothills.