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Morrison County Information Technology (IT) Director Amy Middendorf gave the Board of Commissioners an update on her department and its responsibilities during Tuesday’s planning session.
Middendorf started the presentation by showing a visual she and several other county IT directors helped create which contained a graph representing the flow of information and responsibilities IT departments have in relation to other county entities.
“Not everybody always understands what county IT does and what we’re here for, so I thought this was a good representation of a little bit of where all that funding that you give to us goes to,” she said. “We’re keeping in contact with all of these groups and trying to make sure that we are spending the money adequately as we’re listening in on all of these groups and what projects are moving forward that impact IT.”
“County IT is everywhere — technology is everywhere — and that communication link is everywhere,” said Commissioner Jeffrey Jelinski said. “... When I look at this, just bang, that’s what I see.”
Middendorf said that, entering 2020, the IT Department had 72 projects on its list of goals of what it wanted to complete or on which it wanted to make progress. The COVID-19 pandemic put many of those projects on hold, but it created others. Middendorf said, in total, 16 projects were completed.
Those included the final stretch of the Morrison County Government Center remodeling project. The IT Department was responsible for ensuring all of the departments that were moving to a new location were able to do so seemlessly from a technology standpoint. The IT Department was also in charge of the rollout of the new Morrison County website.
“We moved dispatch to a temporary location (and) moved them back,” Middendorf said. “I just wanted to give a shoutout that that went very smoothly. I don’t think anybody in the public noticed that we moved dispatch twice, that we moved the Sheriff’s Office. I think that was just a good show of teamwork between the Sheriff’s Office and IT and central services, in general.”
The COVID-19 pandemic shifted focus for the department to work-from-home implementation and how to communicate information to the public effectively using the old website, as the new one wasn’t live yet when the pandemic started.
Middendorf also went over a snapshot of three core functions of IT: help desk support, cyber security and network and systems. Each function is crucial to county employees in all departments and their ability to do their jobs.
Middendorf said cyber security was particularly important in 2020 due to the general election in November. She said the election presented several threats, including misinformation and people trying to hack into government systems.
“We have systems in place to try to block that,” she said.
A new position at the Secretary of State’s Office called a cyber navigator was also created to help counties mitigate threats. Middendorf said she and Auditor/Treasurer Chelsey Robinson would be notified if there was a threat which needed to be blocked. She said the county blocked 70 - 100 domains per day at the recommendation of the cyber navigator.
“By doing that, I feel like we mitigated a lot of risks,” Middendorf said.
The best way for the county to combat security risks, however, is through employee training. Despite the fact it is often not intentional, she said employees — in particular their email — pose the biggest threats to the county’s information system.
Moving forward, Middendorf said the department has a list of 56 open projects in 2021. The goal, or perhaps motto, is to simplify, standardize and automate.
“I don’t see this ever really dropping off,” she said. “This might become part of a mission statement, vision statement, whatever you want to call it.”
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