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IT Chief at State Emergency Entity Heads to Private Sector

The chief information officer’s latest career move will see her join a local company. She came to the state in early 2020 as California grappled in earnest with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The technology leader at a linchpin state emergency entity – one closely engaged in California’s COVID-19 and wildfire responses – is returning to the private sector.

Beth Cousins, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services’ chief information officer, who joined the office in February 2020 right before it went into pandemic response mode, will head to Yellow Wood Recovery in Rancho Cordova, where her daughter is CEO. Cousins’ role there will be chief operating officer, she told Techwire. Her last day as CIO will be May 20 and she will begin her new role promptly. Cal OES Chief Information Security Officer Michael Crews will serve as acting CIO, the office told Techwire via email, and a recruitment for a new permanent CIO is imminent.

This marks a considerable transition for the 30-year technology official, whose resume includes more than a decade at IBM ending as project manager; time as IT development manager in Target Technology Services at Target Corp.; and prior to joining the state, nearly 12 years at the city of Minneapolis, finishing as deputy CIO and director of IT business development.

“What I’ll miss most about the public sector – and I’ve worked in it for a while – but here, it’s just really an awesome team and colleagues. OES is an honorable place to work. It really is. I have loved it,” Cousins said. “And what I love about public sector, whether it’s here or elsewhere, is the work that I do is focused on communities. And that aligns with my personal value system.”

The IT chief said she is proudest of “transforming the IT division through reorganization, elevation of existing positions and IT modernization BCPs.” The latter is a reference to budget change proposals, which state entities bring forward during the annual state budget cycle to augment staffing and fund projects in areas including IT.

At Cal OES, Cousins said, she was able to add 11 positions and “several” technology solutions via an IT modernization BCP that enabled the onboarding of a data architect, an infrastructure architect and two data analysts, among others. The office was also able to secure funding for modernization in areas including timekeeping, budgeting, HR, mutual aid ordering and fleet management. A second IT modernization BCP – phase two, essentially – is planned this year in conjunction with the May revision of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed state budget, due later this month.

Returning to the private sector, of course, means the CIO won’t be able to witness firsthand the culmination of the IT modernization efforts she has led.

“I’d love to be there for seeing them through and seeing these new programs that we’re establishing, just within IT,” she said, referencing work in data architecture and in GIS, which has been brought under IT. Cousins said she’s also “very excited” about the staffing and build-out of the new Wildfire Forecast and Threat Intelligence Integration Center — capitalized with more than $5.6 million in General Fund monies in FY 2021-2022 and 11 positions in the 2021-2022 Fiscal Year California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection budget – that was created by state Senate Bill 209, from Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa. Generally, the legislation aims to enhance state response and resilience to wildfires.

Techwire will have more in coming days from its conversation with the outgoing CIO.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.