Del. CIO Collins to depart for Microsoft Consulting
DOVER — After leading the charge for digital equity, Delaware Chief Information Officer James Collins announced he will be leaving the post to join Microsoft Consulting.
Collins will be leaving on Sept. 13 to become a general manager with the consulting arm of the multinational technology giant. In his new role, Collins will help Microsoft continue to form partnerships with state and local governments and higher education institutions.
“It has been an honor to work with Gov. John Carney and the team at the Delaware Department of Technology and Information. I hope I have been able to contribute to something that leaves lasting change in the state in my time here,” Collins told the Delaware Business Times.
Collins has headed the Department of Technology and Innovation (DTI) since 2014, when he was nominated by then-Gov. Jack Markell. Carney re-nominated him in 2016, pointing to Collins’ work with expanding broadband internet access to the state’s rural areas and working on the Delaware Cyber Security Advisory Council. He currently serves as the president of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and will continue to serve on its executive committee.
Previously, Collins served as deputy secretary of state and deputy chief of staff to Markell and worked for Peregrine Systems and MAXIMUS Inc. as a senior consultant, implementing major software projects. He is also a veteran of the U.S Air Force.
Microsoft was seeking talent with hands-on experience in finding digital solutions for government entities, and Collins fit the bill. First conversations started at National Association of State Chief Information Officers, a coalition of state information officers and information technology executives, Collins said. But those discussions were put on pause when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Carney called Collins a central member of his administration, and his work has never been more important than over the last six months.
“James and his team have kept state workers connected throughout this crisis, making sure they could continue to deliver vital services to Delaware families,” the governor said in a prepared statement. “He has worked with the private sector to expand high-speed broadband service across rural Delaware and to protect Delawareans from cyber threats. We will miss James’ leadership but wish him well at Microsoft.”
During his tenure as the state’s top technology officer, Collins drew upon his extensive experience in public and private sectors to implement synergistic, cost-effective and scalable IT solutions that help Delaware deliver digital government services to its citizens.
Looking back on the past four years, Collins said he’s seen DTI have a significant impact on how the state does business by launching modernization efforts. Notably, the pandemic has forced more recent changes in child welfare systems, corporate filing platforms, and licensing applications.
“These projects signal an age when the government can find great partners and supporters to bring governmental services to the digital age,” he said.
Among his accomplishments, Collins said he takes pride in the state’s efforts to expand high-speed internet to southern Delaware. In 2018, Carney announced his administration would front-fund infrastructure needed to get broadband to rural parts of the state.
“The pandemic really exacerbated things, because now more than ever people were using it for doctors appointments and for classes. We were months into this initiative, and I wish we were further along, but we’re months away from finishing a multi-year project,” he said.
Carney has appointed Jason Clarke, chief operating officer at DTI, will serve as acting CIO. The governor plans on making a formal nomination ahead of the General Assembly reconvening in January 2021. The nomination must be approved by the Delaware Senate.
Collins is the fourth cabinet member to depart from the Carney administration this year. Robert Coupe stepped down as secretary of the Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security in February to join the Office of the Attorney General. Dr. Kara Odom Walker, the secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services, announced in June she would resign to take a leadership position at the Nemours Children’s Health System. Transportation Secretary Jennifer Cohan announced in August she would be stepping down to become the next CEO of Leadership Delaware.
By Katie Tabeling