Story by Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Photos by Eric Owens, CDCR Staff Photographer

Two CDCR employees were presented awards during the Public Sector CIO (Chief Information Officer) Academy on Feb. 28 to recognize their achievements in the information technology field.

Russ Nichols, CDCR’s CIO and Director of Enterprise Information Services (EIS), received the CIO of the Year award. Linda Leonard, Information Technology Supervisor II, received the IT Leadership award.

Hundreds of state IT professionals gathered for the two-day conference, capped off by the awards ceremony.

Amy Tong, state CIO and Director of the California Department of Technology, presented the awards.

Nichols earned the award for his leadership skills, collaboration with other state agencies and the host of new applications EIS has developed. He accepted on behalf of all EIS staff.

“The only reason I can stand up here is because of (the EIS team),” Nichols said. “I’m like the hood ornament, the one who gets there first and everyone sees, but (the team is) the drive train, tires and vehicle that drove us there.”

Nichols also acknowledged the hard work put in by institution staff.

“We have 120,000 people in our prisons at any given time and 40,000 to 50,000 parolees on the streets. The people who work and support all of them do amazing things,” he said.

To get the institutions connected with modern technology is a challenge.

“We are literally in buildings built in the 1800s. To bring in technology, we’re drilling through 30-inch granite. In newer prisons, we’re drilling through 30-inch concrete,” he said.

Nichols thanked CDCR Secretary Scott Kernan, the Undersecretaries and his wife.

“My wife Tonia is here with me tonight,” he said. “She’s supported me throughout my career.”

According to the awards program, “Nichols leads a 630+ person technology team by blazing trails across technological plains. (He) paved the way for the development and deployment of CDCR’s first Virtual Integrated Mobile Office application for use by parole agents (enabling them) to conduct check-ins, scheduling and other important parole responsibilities from virtually anywhere.  … Russ (also) led the renovation of the Strategic Offender Management System application to fulfill the strict requirements of Proposition 57.”

Leonard was recognized for her leadership in EIS.

“Linda is focused on developing staff and building teams. She provides leadership opportunities and encourages communication among staff,” according to the awards program.

More than 40 public employees received the IT Leadership award.