FirstNet Appoints Former Police Captain as CEO

Upper management of the beleaguered FirstNet gets a revamp: two new positions and one new hire.

by / August 17, 2015

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) board announced on Aug. 17 another restructuring of its senior management. The positions of CEO and president were formed, with former police captain Michael Poth named as CEO. Acting Executive Director TJ Kennedy will serve as president.

“Mike’s extensive experience managing large teams in the IT and communications sectors will be an invaluable asset to the FirstNet organization,” said FirstNet Board Chair Sue Swenson in a press release. “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.”

Poth joins FirstNet after working as vice president of public-sector state, local and education for Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Services. Before HP, Poth worked at Northrop Grumman Information Technology for 14 years, leaving as the director of enterprise solutions. At the Corvallis, Ore., and Tempe, Ariz., police departments, Poth worked his way up from officer to captain.

FirstNet’s new hire follows recent skepticism about the direction of the ambitious nationwide infrastructure project. Allegations of hiring missteps and scandal have been accompanied by both an investigation and audit report by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Office of Inspector General, as well as claims that the project might be stalled.

"The report makes a number of recommendations regarding improving guidance and processes around the Department’s ethics program and contracting on behalf of FirstNet," said Sue Swenson, authority chair, in a December blog. "We concur with these recommendations, many of which have already been implemented."

Comparisons to HealthCare.gov and a suggestion that the network will not be welcomed by those for whom it was designed are among the reasons FirstNet remains a topic with more questions than answers.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 10:40 a.m. on Aug. 20, 2015, to correct verbiage related to FirstNet’s ethics and procurement of contractor support in the early days of its operations, and include a statement from FirstNet Chair Sue Swenson.