Virginia's secretary of technology, George C. Newstrom, said yesterday that he is stepping down from the post after more than two years on the job. He will be replaced by his deputy, Eugene J. Huang.
Newstrom, appointed by Gov. Mark R. Warner (D), said his resignation will take effect Friday. He said he plans to take several months off before deciding what to do next.
Newstrom's tenure has been marked by struggles to push sweeping technology changes through a tradition-bound state bureaucracy, according to allies of the 57-year-old technology industry veteran.
The position carries two main responsibilities: Make the state government run more efficiently using technology and bolster Virginia's reputation as a destination for high-technology companies.
"He had a bold vision, but getting members of the General Assembly to buy into it was some heavy lifting," said Alan G. Merten, president of George Mason University.
He added that the economic downturn made Newstrom's task more difficult as it pressed state budgets and made many corporate executives cautious. Newstrom had "a lot of friends, but [the support] just wasn't as crisp as to what had to happen," Merten said.
Still, Newstrom was able to secure continued funding for the Center for Innovative Technology, an industry development organization that had been in jeopardy as some legislators questioned its purpose. Newstrom also spearheaded the 2003 creation of the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA), an organization responsible for the state's technology infrastructure and procurement.
Del. Joe T. May (R-Loudoun), chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology, said, "I'm sorry to see him go. He certainly served very well indeed." May's committee worked with Newstrom on the creation of VITA.
Newstrom had spent 27 years with information technology giant Electronic Data Systems Corp., eventually leading the company's Asia-Pacific operations before Warner offered him the cabinet position. In recruiting Newstrom, Warner laid out a plan for the office that included revamping the state's use of technology but also luring international businesses to Virginia, Newstrom recalled.
"Had he only said the first thing, I would have said no. The second one was really intriguing . . . that's what compelled me to come here," Newstrom said.
The technology secretary was a former vice chairman of the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) and was chairman of the 1998 World Congress on Information Technology. He has continued to be a common fixture at industry events around the state.
"If you can make government run more like business, you've been a success, and George has been able to make Virginia run more like a business, especially in the IT arena," said Bobbie Kilberg, president of NVTC.
Huang, 28, has served as the deputy secretary for three years. He worked on Warner's Senate campaign before heading to Oxford University to study for a doctorate in economics -- a pursuit that is on hold until the end of his term. Huang said his main priority as secretary will be to continue pushing for Newstrom's initiatives.
"He and I can start sentences and end sentences together," Newstrom said of his successor.
Staff writer Michael Shear in Richmond contributed to this report.