Techie Now Leading N.M. Information Technology Dept.

SOCORRO, N.M. April 2, 2011 – Gov. Susana Martinez has appointed a second New Mexico Tech graduate to her cabinet. Darryl Ackley is the newly confirmed Secretary of the Department of Information Technology. He has two degrees from Tech, both in computer science: a bachelor’s that he earned in 2001 and a master’s in 2009.

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Darryl Ackley, Secretary of the Department of Information Technology, and two time graduate from New Mexico Tech

Ackley had worked at the Institute for Complex Additive Systems Analysis, or ICASA, since 2001, leaving the division of EMRTC as the director.

“I look forward to serving the people of New Mexico in my new capacity,” Ackley said in an official press release. “I thank Gov. Martinez for the opportunity to work in her administration, and I appreciate the Senate for their support to serve the public of this great state.”

Martinez previously appointed Dave Martin as the Cabinet Secretary of the Environment Department. Martin earned his master’s at Tech in petroleum engineering and was the director of the PRRC for 10 years.

In an interview in Santa Fe, Ackley said he hopes to foster a customer service ethic at the department, mainly because the DoIT serves all state agencies. He was getting to know key personnel at each state agency.

“One big challenge is balancing being attentive and listening with prioritizing what we do,” he said. “We’re here to serve the other agencies and I want that to guide our decisions. We’ll meet those challenges through good governance and by being straightforward.”

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Darryl Ackley's official state portrait

Budget concerns create another set of challenges, but Ackley said those are exciting challenges – how to be technologically innovative while saving the money for the state.

At the New Mexico Department of Information Technology, Ackley is responsible for numerous technology services that support state government; including the state’s human resources system, data and voice networks and two-way radio communications. The department also operates the state’s Data Center, which houses and processes critical information necessary to keep government operations functioning. Additionally, the Secretary is also the state Chief Information Officer, providing strategic information technology direction for all state agencies.

“Taking full advantage of available technology is an important component of my efforts to make government operate more efficiently and at a lower cost to taxpayers,” Gov. Martinez said in a press release. “Secretary Ackley’s vast knowledge in this area will greatly help my administration keep its promise to cut costs by utilizing services provided by this agency. His background makes him ideal for this department, which will help streamline government operations and save taxpayers money.”

Any time a state agency deploys new software or systems, he oversees the effort to ensure that each agency adheres to state policy.

“My goal is to make good decisions using a wholistic approach,” he said. “We must understand the technology so decisions don’t have unintended consequences. We have to weigh proposals on their merits. We’ll look for strategic, systemic ways we can apply technology to state systems to improve efficiency and reduce cost. The key is ‘systemic.’ How can we take advantage of what we have?”

Ackley was born in South Carolina, but his family moved to Farmington, N.M., when he was in fifth grade, graduating from Kirtland Central High School in 1996.

“Go Broncos!” he said.

While in high school, he always had an interest in statistics and computers. The girls basketball coaching staff recruited Ackley to be the team’s statistician when he was a freshman in 1992. Ackley had a front row seat when the Lady Broncos won their fourth consecutive state championship in 1996. At first, his classmates teased him about helping out with girls athletics.

“Eventually, they started asking me, ‘Are you the only guy on that bus?’” he said. “Then they would ask me if I needed an assistant. ‘Darryl, do you need someone to carry your laptop?’”

That experience was more than just number-crunching. He also was interacted with college recruiters – turning him into an unofficial public relations officer for the players, he said.

He first visited the Tech campus on a field trip when he was in the fifth grade. After his junior year, he attended the Summer Mini-Course at Tech, participating in the electrical engineering program. Later, as a high school senior, he participated in the New Mexico State Science and Engineering Fair, which is held on campus in Socorro. New Mexico Tech was the only university to which he applied.

“I knew Tech’s reputation was very good and the computer science department was booming,” he said.

His time at New Mexico Tech – both as a student and working at ICASA – was an excellent preparation for leading the state’s Department of Information Technology, he said.

“The computer science program at Tech is awesome,” he said. “They always strike a balance between the in-depth theoretical side and the application side. My undergraduate experience prepared me very well. Now, this job is very applied.”

As an undergrad, many professors had a profound influence on him, he said.

“I had about nine different advisors and all of them had a profound impact, including professors in physics and management,” he said.

He started at ICASA as an intern as a senior in May 2001. After graduating in December 2001, he became a staff researcher at the Institute. Over the next eight years, he had five or six job titles, rising to the top position in 2008.

Ackley and his wife, Lisa, still live in Socorro, but they are considering a move to Albuquerque. Darryl said he and his wife have two future Techies: a son in third grade and a daughter in first grade.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech