Pritzker Reappoints McGinnis, Parker to FirstNet Board, Appoints Two New Members

The Commerce Department announced the reappointment of Kevin McGinnis and Houston Mayor Annise Parker (D.) to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board and the appointment of two new members to replace Tim Bryan and Frank Plastina, who did not want to be reappointed. The new industry board members are Neil Cox, a technology executive with a background in the telecom sector, and Edward Horowitz, a venture capitalist who also has telecom experience. The four board members announced today have been appointed to three-year terms. The terms of the four board members whose terms were up expire tomorrow.

“I appreciate the willingness of these individuals to serve our nation by lending their expertise to the task of building this historic nationwide public safety broadband network,” said Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. “The Board will continue the important work of ensuring our firefighters, police, and emergency responders have the most advanced technology to communicate effectively and save lives.”

“I am confident that the FirstNet Board has the right mix of individuals with varied experiences in public safety, telecommunications, finance and state and local government to effectively oversee the FirstNet organization as it plans for the deployment of this historic network,” said Lawrence E. Strickling, administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, where FirstNet is housed as an independent authority. “I also want to thank Tim Bryan and Frank Plastina for their service to this important mission.”

FirstNet board Chairwoman Sue Swenson cited the communications industry backgrounds of Messrs. Cox and Horowitz and said Mr. McGinnis and Mayor Parker “bring critical public safety (EMS) insights and local government experience to the Board.” She also thanked Messrs. Bryan and Plastina for their contributions.

Mr. Horowitz is chairman of FairPoint Communications, Inc., and chair of Edslink LLC, a New York City-based venture capital firm that he founded in 2000. His board appointments include seats on the boards of Globecomm Systems, Inc., a satellite network solutions company; PT Link Net; U.S. Space LLC; and OmniSpace LLC.

From 2005 to 2008, Mr. Horowitz was president and chief executive officer of SES Americom, Inc., and a member of the executive committee of its parent company, SES S.A. Earlier in his career, he held senior positions at Citigroup, Inc., and Viacom, Inc. He received a bachelor’s of science degree in physics from the City College of New York and a master’s of business administration from the Columbia University School of Business.

An NTIA spokeswoman said she did not know whether Mr. Horowitz would remain in his existing positions.

FairPoint said in a statement, “We are excited for Mr. Horowitz, and we don’t see an obvious conflict, but we will discuss this further with him.” Globecomm did not immediately respond to a question about whether it expected Mr. Horowitz to resign from its board.

Mr. Cox is CEO of Repio, Inc., an online reputation management company. He previously held executive positions at Qwest Communications International Corp., (now part of CenturyLink, Inc.) including as executive vice president-business development, product development, and IT. Before that, he was a venture partner at MK Capital, EVP at Science Applications International Corp., where he led efforts on digital convergence, next-generation networks, and fixed and wireless broadband networks.

Mr. Cox also held multiple positions during 15 years at Ameritech (now part of AT&T, Inc.), including president of SecurityLink from Ameritech and president of Ameritech Information Industry Services, which was the company’s wholesale business unit. Mr. Cox earned a bachelor’s of science degree in electrical engineering technology from Purdue University.

Mr. McGinnis is chief of North East Mobile Health Services in Maine and a national leader on emergency medical services issues. He has been a member of the FirstNet board since it was established three years ago (TRDaily, Aug. 20, 2012).

“I am extremely honored to be re-appointed to the Board,” Mr. McGinnis told TRDaily. “I have enjoyed the challenges and progress we have seen in my first three years with FirstNet. I believe, more than ever, that FirstNet will fundamentally change the way EMS is practiced. I look forward to building on the progress we have made to deploy a broadband network for public safety.  The network will provide mission critical, real-time information that will transform the way we all respond to emergencies for the benefit of our communities and the safety of first responders throughout the nation.”

Mayor Parker has only been a member of the board since last year, when she assumed a seat with one year left. She was one of five new board members appointed last year (TRDaily, Sept. 4, 2014). “I’m proud to represent Houston in this vital public safety mission,” she said today. “I understand cities and I will bring that perspective to the Firstnet board as we  continue to learn more about the national voice and data information exchange.”

Mr. Bryan, another original board member, has been chairman of the FirstNet board’s Finance Committee since it was created.

The CEO of the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC), Mr. Bryan told reporters today that he asked not to be reappointed because of the possibility that he might have to recuse himself on issues or that there might be an appearance of a conflict of interest given the NRTC’s membership, which includes rural telcos and rural electric utilities, and its relationship with telecom vendors. “It could not be good for FirstNet,” he said. “What if it put FirstNet back?” He said it was not apparent when he joined the board three years ago that his full-time job would prove problematic.

Earlier this year, Mr. Bryan indicated that he planned to recuse himself from voting on issues related to his full-time position (TRDaily, March 24). A FirstNet spokesman had told TRDaily that Mr. Bryan would not vote on those aspects of FirstNet’s acquisition approach relating to regionalization issues.

Mr. Plastina is CEO of Cree, Inc.’s Power and RF Division, which is to be spun off into a separately traded public company. Efforts to reach him today were unsuccessful. A source said he did not want to be reappointed to the FirstNet board because of the demands of his new job.

Harlin McEwen, chair of FirstNet’s Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) and chair of the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Communications & Technology Committee, said he is pleased with re-appointment of Mr. McGinnis and Ms. Parker. “Both Kevin and Mayor Parker have been strong supporters of building the FirstNet Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network,” he said. “I also look forward to working with the two newly appointed board members and thank Tim Bryan and Frank Plastina for their service.”

“We welcome the reappointments of Kevin McGinnis and Mayor Parker,” said Derek Poarch, executive director of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International. “They have proven to be significant contributors to the important work of the FirstNet Board.  Further, we welcome new board members Neil Cox and Edward Horowitz and their willingness to bring the benefit of their experience to this effort.  Finally, we thank Tim Bryan and Frank Plastina for their service and wish them the very best.”

“NPSTC is very pleased to see the new appointments to the FirstNet Board,” said Ralph Haller, chairman of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council. “The reappointment of Mr. McGinnis and Mayor Parker support stability on the Board and critical relationships with local government and public safety.”

The board appointments announced today were the latest senior personnel moves impacting FirstNet. Earlier this week, it announced the hiring of Michael Poth to the newly created position of CEO and said that TJ Kennedy would serve in the new post of president, even though the position must be posted (TRDaily, Aug. 17). – Paul Kirby, paul.kirby@wolterskluwer.com