FirstNet Picks Former HP VP as CEO; Kennedy to Be President

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board announced today that it has hired a former Hewlett-Packard Company vice president for the newly created position of chief executive officer, while TJ Kennedy, who has been acting executive director of FirstNet for the past 16 months, will serve in the newly created post of president.

The CEO will be Michael Poth, who most recently was a VP in HP’s Enterprise Services business unit. He served in that position from 2012-2014. Before that, he was a senior director at HP.  Prior to joining HP, Mr. Poth worked from 1996 to 2011 for Northrop Grumman Corp., first as program manager and director-public safety solutions and then as director-enterprise solutions.

Mr. Poth also has a background in public safety. From 1982 to 1996, he served in the Corvallis, Ore., and Tempe, Ariz., police departments. He began as an officer and worked his way up to captain. Mr. Poth received a bachelor’s of science degree and a master’s of public administration from Arizona State University.

FirstNet said in a news release that the creation of the CEO and president positions “more closely align with its mission and operating model.” FirstNet is an independent entity housed in the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, but its board members and staff often refer to it as a start-up not unlike any new tech company.

“This approach reflects the key roles FirstNet’s top executives must play given the complexity and importance of the FirstNet program and ensures the new titles accurately reflect the duties and responsibilities of FirstNet’s senior most executives,” according to the news release.

“Mike’s extensive experience managing large teams in the IT and communications sectors will be an invaluable asset to the FirstNet organization,” said FirstNet Chairwoman Sue Swenson. “His talents will nicely complement the strength of our existing management team. Working together with TJ Kennedy, I’m confident that we are on a sound path to meeting our goals and fulfilling our mission.”

“He will bring his strategic, operational, and program leadership skills to bear on the all aspects of FirstNet, but particularly on the critical Request for Proposal(s) (RFP) scheduled to be released later this year,” the news release said of Mr. Poth. “The RFP will focus on the partnerships required to build, market, operate, and oversee the nationwide public safety broadband network.

“Functioning in the role of President, Kennedy will continue to provide valuable insight and input into the RFP process, but will focus on overseeing FirstNet’s outstanding outreach and technology efforts, including the areas of external communication, legislative affairs, public safety and state outreach, and the Boulder technology team,” the news release added.

“I’m thrilled to be joining this talented and dedicated FirstNet team,” Mr. Poth said in the news release.  “I will ensure FirstNet continues to execute its mission – building a first-of-a-kind public safety network that will literally save lives.  I’m honored to be part of this historic effort, and I look forward to working with TJ and the entire team to accomplish our goals.”

The news release noted that Mr. Poth will be based in FirstNet’s Reston, Va., headquarters.  An issue involving  Bill D’Agostino Jr., who resigned as FirstNet’s general manager (the name of the top post until it was changed to executive director) in April 2014 (TRDaily, April 14, 2014), was the fact that he commuted from his California home to the Washington area rather than moving to the Washington area on a full-time basis, sources have said.

An announcement of who will lead FirstNet’s staff permanently has been eagerly anticipated by stakeholders.

Sources had told TRDaily that the FirstNet board wanted to ensure that even if Mr. Kennedy, who is generally well-regarded by the public safety and industry communities, did not get the top post permanently, he would stay with FirstNet.

Mr. Kennedy has led the authority during a busy time that saw the release of a draft RFP and special notice, the issuance of three public notices exploring key legal and statutory interpretations, increased consultation with states and other stakeholders, and the hiring of dozens of new employees.

Also this week, the Commerce Department could announce new FirstNet board appointments or reappointments. The terms of four board members expire this month, and some sources have said that they have heard that board members Tim Bryan, CEO of the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, and Frank Plastina, interim executive vice president-power and R&F for Cree, Inc., do not want to be reappointed. They could not be reached for comment.

Sources have said that Kevin McGinnis, chief of North East Mobile Health Services in Maine, wants to be reappointed, while a spokeswoman for Houston Mayor Annise Parker (D.) has said she wants to stay on the board. Mr. McGinnis has declined to comment. – Paul Kirby,