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FirstNet begins new era under Swenson's leadership

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Expecting a lull in FirstNet activity with the recent departures of General Manager Bill D'Agostino and Chairman Sam Ginn? Think again. New Chairwoman Sue Swenson sets high expectations in many areas to maintain momentum toward a nationwide public-safety broadband network

WESTMINSTER, COLO.—According to conventional wisdom, a fledgling organization that loses its chairman and top staffer in less than two months will immediately suffer a period of relative inactivity and uncertainty in the wake of such announcements. Many close observers might even hint at an imminent collapse.

Apparently, the folks at FirstNet didn’t get this conventional-wisdom memo—and that’s a good thing.

This week, the FirstNet board conducted its first meetings since Bill D’Agostino resigned as general manager in April and Sam Ginn stepped down as chairman. Instead of showing signs of vulnerability without these leaders, FirstNet conveyed a renewed sense of purpose and momentum that was welcomed by even oft-skeptical public-safety officials.

Leading the way is new Chairwoman Sue Swenson, who received plaudits from almost all stakeholder camps as FirstNet embarks on a new era without Ginn, the FirstNet board chairman since its establishment almost two years ago.

Swenson has a reputation of being a detail-oriented, tireless worker who has earned the respect of first-responder representatives, which is no small feat for someone with a commercial-industry background. This sentiment was reinforced with her opening keynote speech for the PSCR stakeholders meeting, in which she acknowledged some areas where FirstNet has “missed the mark” in the past before positively directing the focus that will be needed to make a nationwide broadband network for public safety a reality.

“This is something that makes a difference, and that’s frankly what keeps me here,” Swenson said. “I will tell you that, last year, I seriously thought about not standing for reappointment. I was so frustrated with a couple of things that occurred, and I’ll tell very honestly that I was literally that close to saying, ‘I’ve had enough of this.’

“Even though there may be some perceptions that us industry-wireless folks may not get it, I hope that people start to see the commitment and conviction that we have, that we really are getting it and are part of the public-safety community … I really am committed to public safety and to this particular effort.”

In her PSCR speech and in statements during the FirstNet board meetings, Swenson expressed her expectations that members of the FirstNet team need to break the stereotypical mold of government workers and more closely follow the work ethic of employees in a commercial startup.

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Donny Jackson

Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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