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The Genesis of GMIS

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s Cincinnati, OH and Hamilton County, OH joined together to establish a Regional Computer Center (RCC). This was one of the early, if not the first, endeavors between a City and a County to cooperate in a joint venture of this magnitude. When one thinks of the state of the art of data processing in local government during this period, it is immediately recognized that this was a revolutionary concept of major proportions and one that generated considerable interest in the local government community around the country.

In a letter dated March 8, 1971, Andy Atkinson, Superintendent of the city of Cincinnati/Hamilton County Regional Computer Center (RCC) wrote, "Over the past two years, the City of Cincinnati/Hamilton County Regional Computer Center has conducted almost two hundred tours for interested government agencies from all over the United States and ten foreign countries. It has become readily apparent there is a significant gap in the dissemination of research and development work in the area of government information systems." He then proceeded to note, "For the past several months I have contacted some of the agencies that have visited the Center in an attempt to ascertain if there was interest in developing a user’s group dedicated to promote sharing and coordination of technical development in the information systems area."

INITIAL ORGANIZATION

On April 21, 1971, the first official meeting of what was to become the Government Management Information Sciences (GMIS) User’s Group, was hosted by Andrews O. Atkinson and the Regional Computer Center. The purpose of the meeting was two fold: (1) to brief delegates on the RCC and the County Law Enforcement Applied Regionally (CLEAR) application, and (2) to determine if there was interest in forming an organization dedicated to promotion of standards, transferability of systems, mutual assistance, cooperation and sharing of research and experience. The RCC had developed a highly successful, integrated regional management information system supporting some twenty law enforcement activities within the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. The CLEAR system generated considerable interest in the law enforcement community, with representatives of some twelve police departments attending the initial meeting. It is significant to note that the CLEAR system was subsequently transferred to at least two cities: San Francisco, CA and Fort Lauderdale, FL. This is undoubtedly the reason that one of the major thrusts and areas of interest of this embryonic group was law enforcement.

The initial meeting was international and attended by some 40 delegates of local governments. Internationally, Montreal, Quebec and Toronto, Ontario was present. There were representatives from the states of California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. Undoubtedly, the most significant action resulting from this meeting was the unanimous agreement that a cooperative effort would be beneficial to all. The delegates perceived the need for a tightly knit organization of friends and colleagues working together for the common good; to further the correlation, unification, standardization and dissemination of computer systems and service related to the local and state government community. They envisioned the expertise available within the organization could assist other local governments new to electronic data processing, in feasibility studies and vendor or consultant selection. This was the genesis of the Government Management Information Sciences (GMIS) User’s Group. That first meeting set the stage for future GMIS Board meetings, lots of hard work and little glory. The first order of business was the election of officers. 

1971/1972

President Andrews O. Atkinson Cincinnati, OH
1st V.P. David McDonald Ft. Lauderdale, FL
2nd V.P. Richard Kohrman Fort Wayne, IN
3rd V.P. Addison G. Gilbert Palm Beach, FL
Sec/Tr. Masaji S. Toki Cincinnati, OH

Committees were identified to develop guidelines for the organization:

• The "BYLAWS", MEMBERSHIP AND GOALS committee presented the proposed goals and objectives as the basic framework of the organization; a proposed set of By-Laws were discussed and modified; it was subsequently agreed the By-Laws would be ratified by mail no later than July, 1972;

• The PUBLICATIONS AND PUBLIC RELATIONS committee outlined the requirements for an "index" or "bank" of users and applications be developed, this would become known as the GMIS Survey, they decreed the Secretary/Treasurer would prepare a newsletter to be sent to each member (the first was published in May, 1971); the fiscal year was established as of May 1 of the current year through April 30 of the following year; an annual fee of $25.00 per agency was established.

• The MEETINGS, PROGRAMS AND FUNDING COMMITTEE proposed that GMIS seek federal funding assistance from the Housing and Urban Development and the Advisory Committee on Intergovernmental Relations agencies. A three man committee was appointed to draw up a preliminary proposal for a grant of $40-50,000.00; the committee also proposed a general meeting for the entire group be held in April of each year and two other meetings, one specifically to address law enforcement interests and the other to address other special interest areas. This recommendation was subsequently modified and it was agreed that GMIS would host two conferences per year: one in the fall and one in the spring. It is interesting to note that from the first meeting, members were concerned about how to finance the organization. A proposal that an annual fee of $100.00 per agency be assessed was defeated because "no agency should be denied membership due to a high annual fee."

The original By-Laws stated, "Election of Officers shall be conducted at a regular meeting preferably held near the end of the membership year." It was determined the election of officers would be held at the spring conference and the new Officers would be responsible for conducting the "fall" conference of the election year and the "spring" conference of the following year. The Executive Board recognized a problem because a Board whose term theoretically had expired would be conducting the spring conference. This problem was eliminated when the decision was made to only have one conference per year and semi-annual conferences were terminated with the San Antonio conference held November 9-13, 1975.

The first official "fall" conference was held in Ft. Lauderdale, FL October 18-20, 1971; "Ad" Gilbert, West Palm Beach, FL and David McDonald, Ft. Lauderdale, FL "volunteered" to co-host the conference. Current members of GMIS are indebted to these gentlemen because they were believers in the old adage that "All work and no play…" was not the name of the game. Consequently, drift fishing and golf balanced the heavy workload and the conference was a success. This precedent has carried over and GMIS always attempts to balance a heavy workload with some time to clear the cobwebs and enjoy a bit of socializing. Have you ever noticed how much business is discussed at a social hour? Many members have mentioned they find as many answers and solutions to their requirements at the social functions as they do at the formal sessions. The spring conference was held in Atlanta, GA on May 8-10, 1972; "Andy" Sheahan, Georgia Department of Public Safety was the conference chairman.

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