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Remembering Tim Rice, Former NCSL Staff Chair and Executive Director of Illinois Legislative Information System

By Pam Greenberg | Oct. 13, 2020 | State Legislatures Magazine

Tim Rice, former executive director of the Illinois Legislative Information System who served a term as NCSL staff chair, and who was an enthusiastic supporter of the National Association of Legislative Information Technology (NALIT), died Oct. 2. He was 64.

Tim started at the Legislative Information System as a messenger in 1979 and subsequently held almost every position within the agency. As project manager in 1998, he spearheaded a successful five-year rewrite of the state’s legislative information systems. He became the office’s executive director in 2004 and retired in December 2016.

Tim’s involvement with NCSL began with his membership in NALIT. He proudly hosted the group’s professional development seminars in Springfield, Ill., twice—once in 2001 and “Version 2.0” in 2007. He brought creative ideas for sessions and fun to the meetings—like the metal trash can lid and hammer that served as a time-keeper when a NALIT member exceeded his or her “Five Minutes of Fame” presentation—a tradition that has lived on and spread to other NCSL staff associations and meetings (although without the trash can lid, which does not travel well).

Tim became chair of NALIT in 2002 and won the group’s staff achievement award in 2005. He was also active in the American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries Staff Section, served on the Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee and was a staff vice chair of the Legislative Effectiveness Committee. He was elected to the NCSL Executive Committee, then served as NCSL staff chair in 2010-11.

On a personal level, Tim was humble, genuine and funny. The biographies he supplied for his many NCSL speaking engagements always reflected his pride in LIS staff:

“As the executive director for the Legislative Information System (LIS), Tim Rice has the pleasure of working with professionals who provide the finest IT service, solutions, and support to the Illinois General Assembly. While he is proud to discuss any of LIS's accomplishments, the credit must always go to the top-notch staff.”

Tim was an inspiring collaborator and mentor, and NALIT members held Tim in high regard for his leadership qualities and his work to advance legislative information technology. He eagerly shared his knowledge and experiences at NALIT and NCSL meetings and in technical assistance projects, or by hosting legislative staff from other states and countries to discuss legislative IT projects and the legislative institution. He wanted others to gain what he had from being involved, saying:

"NALIT is your connection, and it may even be your lifeline. Here are the folks who do what you do, who face what you face and who will, like you, make a difference. These are the people who will stand beside you, confront the challenges, explore options, share failures and successes, and arrive at solutions. Maintain and nurture that network and be an active part of it."

Tim never boasted about his own achievements or his charitable work, such as providing IT and other support to the International Health and Development Network in Ghana. But he was always willing to give of himself, sharing his professional and personal experiences to help others and reaching out with friendship.

He had a genuine interest in others and a gift of making them feel important and valued. He loved a practical joke and brought a smile to any situation. Tim was full of faith, optimism and tremendous gratitude, despite being faced with the most difficult challenges.

I don’t know how I got so lucky as to have had and kept his friendship over the years. I know I am one of many who will miss him dearly.

Tim enjoyed and loved many things—the St. Louis Cardinals, a good Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, his friendships—but he loved his family above all. Our sympathies to his family and many friends.

Pam Greenberg tracks legislative information technology and other issues for NCSL.

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