MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz filled his last cabinet post Tuesday, and it is one of the toughest jobs in state government.
Tarek Tomes will head the state’s IT department. It is a department riddled with controversy over security breaches and technical glitches.
Minnesota’s sprawling, outdated computer systems gained notoriety when the state’s new license and registration system famously failed — leaving drivers without licenses or tabs. That’s just one of the controversies Tomes inherits when he walks into Minnesota IT, called MINIT. But Tomes says he’s up for the job.
“We have to make sure that we instill a culture where we are not scared to fail. Certainly, some of the project outcomes have been, you know, very, very public. But we have to instill a culture where as technologists we’re bold with the vision that we set forth,” Tomes said.
Minnesota’s IT system holds sensitive personal information on every Minnesotans, and makes billions of transactions every day. But fixing the state’s massive IT system is easier said than done. And one of the legislature’s top tech experts says there are a lot of good places to start.
“I’d put us in that ‘C’ to maybe ‘C-minus’ range,” said Republican State Representative Jim Nash, (R) Waconia.
Nash, an information security management expert, says the new commissioner is a good pick. He is hoping the focus will be cybersecurity, updated software and fixing MNLARS.
“This is a huge problem,” Nash said. “We are in a bad place in Minnesota IT, and we have to get this fixed for the people of Minnesota.”
Gov. Walz is promising to make fixing MINIT — one of the few state government agencies that touches every Minnesotan — a priority.
“The impacts from cybersecurity threats we’re facing, to just the basic convenience of getting your driver’s license renewed or getting a hunting license, whatever it may be,” Walz said.
Several bills at the legislature this year are calling for a major overhaul of MNIT. The session ends next month.