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Technology expert to join government

The New Tampa man will move to Tallahassee to join the state Board of Education.

By JOHN BALZ, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 7, 2002


PEBBLE CREEK -- Ruben Lopez is not new to education or to business. He is, however, new to government.

The Pebble Creek resident and former communications executive is set to enter uncharted terrority when he takes over as chief technology officer for the Florida Board of Education.

Joe Horne, the state's secretary of education, appointed him to the post last week. Lopez will head to Tallahassee to begin work May 20.

"I love New Tampa," he said. "I'm going to miss it."

One of Lopez's primary responsibilities will be shepherding the board through its merger with the state Department of Education. As the two agencies combine resources, policies and computer network systems, Lopez said he hopes to raise the quality of teaching while holding down the rising costs of technology.

"(Gov. Jeb Bush) and (Joe Horne) are businessmen and they are trying to impart a business strategy to government," said Lopez, 59. "I think it's a noble idea and I would like to try and help."

A father of four, Lopez spent 17 years at the University of Miami, where he rose to assistant vice president for information technology. Most recently he served as chief information officer for Intermedia Communications in its Tampa office.

After Worldcom Inc. bought the company last year, 2,700 employees were let go, including Lopez. He is confident that he will be able to handle his new gig.

"I've done this many times before," he said. "I'm a 30-year veteran of information technology. This is nothing. It'll be a lot of work, but I'm familiar with all of it."

He will work to improve communication between administrators and teachers at elementary and high schools, community colleges, state universities and vocational schools.

"Ruben Lopez has the broad qualifications, experience and skills needed to coordinate and advance the technology operations," Horne said in a statment.

Lopez has flown airplanes since he was 11. He logs hours in a twin engine Cessna.

"It's one way to relax. You feel like you are in control," he said. "You better be in control."

-- John Balz can be reached at (813) 269-5313 or at balz@sptimes.com.

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