By Pam Greenberg

Bill Behnk, former coordinator of Legislative Information Systems for the Office of Legislative Counsel in California, and a longtime member and enthusiastic supporter of NCSL and the National Association of Legislative Information Technology (NALIT), died April 8. He was 87.

Bill had a lengthy career that included service in the Army and jobs as a teacher and data processing specialist before he joined the Legislature. He also worked a stint in the executive branch Department of Information Technology, but told me how happy he was to return to the Office of Legislative Counsel’s Legislative Data Center (LDC) in 2001.

In 2012, Bill’s colleagues, knowing he had no plans to retire, celebrated his career with an appreciation event that included a commemorative mural and plaque, a Senate resolution, and the naming of a floor of the Data Center as the “W.E. ‘Bill’ Behnk Computer Center.” He had worked at the Legislature until his hospitalization last December. Colleagues called him “an institution,” “a good friend and mentor,” and “an inspiration.”

Bill’s legislative service also was recognized by his friends and colleagues in other state legislatures. He received the Legislative Staff Achievement Award from NALIT in 1998. He was elected to the NCSL Executive Committee and the Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee, and also was an active member of the Communications and Information Policy Committee. The award also acknowledged Bill for “helping to improve the effectiveness of the legislative institution, and for exhibiting a high degree of professionalism, competence, and integrity in serving the legislature and the public.”

Bill’s enthusiasm about information technology issues was contagious, and he was always willing to share his experiences, anecdotes and expertise with other states. He welcomed state legislative and international visitors to “come to Sacto for the tour.” His obituary, appearing in the Sacramento Bee, describes him as a widely respected computer pioneer with a broad knowledge of technology and the legislative process.

Bill was a man of great warmth and humor, someone who always expressed thanks and appreciation for the smallest favors, and who had a gift for making friends and connecting people across the country. We will miss him.

Pam Greenberg is a senior fellow at NCSL, where she monitors legislative information technology, privacy, public records and Internet policy issues. Email Pam.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.


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