A Deeper Background: Franci Havemeister

While we touched on this in my earlier column, various questions and responses around the net make this story worthy of a closer look. (For the record, I’m willing to bet that as recently as last year Franci never thought she would be on the cover of the New York Times.) We noted the somewhat “thin” resume (to be charitable) of Ms. Havemeister at the time that Sarah Palin appointed her as Director of Agriculture in Alaska. My friend Ed Morrissey quickly jumps to the defense of this selection.

The third, Franci Havemeister, gets ridiculed for her “love of cows” as a qualification for her position at the Director of Agriculture. What the Times fails to mention is that the “love of cows” was also accompanied by years in the 4-H program and work done in several sectors of agriculture, as a quick Google search finds:

Franci and her husband, Bob, have four children and are lifetime Alaskans. She has spent her life actively involved in agriculture from the 4-H program to varied agriculture sectors including dairy, potato, vegetable and greenhouse production.

Say, that certainly sounds a bit more impressive, doesn’t it? “dairy, potato, vegetable and greenhouse production?” But what does that really mean? Well, as it turns out, I can use The Google too. And it turns up a few more tidbits on this “experience” list. First, there was the brief entry in the NASDA-NASS newsletter announcing her appointment.

Alaska—Franci Havemeister was appointed the director of the Division of Agriculture in August. Havemeister has been an active part of the farming community in Alaska. “I am looking forward to contributing to the promotion and long term success of agriculture in the State of Alaska,” said Havemeister.

The best they could do was “an active part of the farming community?” Far more telling, however, is this interview from the Collaborative INSIGHTS newsletter.

While she was raised in Anchorage and then Palmer and has raised her own family in the Matanuska Valley, she has not previously worked for the State of Alaska and never had eyes on the position of Director of the Division of Agriculture or any other political or administrative role in government. So why Franci to lead the division?

Franci was fascinated with farms and particularly milk cows as a young person. After moving to the valley with her folks, she was immersed in a community filled with many farm families. Not surprisingly her fascination with cows and farms eventually introduced her to her future husband, the son of dairy farmers. Franci has seen, first hand, the challenges that Alaska dairy farmers experienced and wanted a change – a good and positive change.

We will likely have to wait until somebody talks to this reporter (or, preferably, Havemeister herself) but if you were writing up an interview and took pains to ask the question, “why Franci to lead?” would you not at least mention if there was some form of job she had held in the industry? Or even if she had actually – hands on – run a farm and worked the land? Instead, all we get is that her husband was the “son of dairy farmers” and that she “lived in a community of farmers.”

Here’s a thought for you. I “live in a community” of aerospace engineers, only ten miles from one of the larger plants run by the nation’s premiere defense contractor in that field. Can I pilot the next shuttle, please? Seriously, without any further clarification, how are we to make the leap to say that her background in “dairy, potato, vegetable and greenhouse production” involves anything more than having some farmers for neighbors and family memebers? Oh yes, and she participated in 4-H. And if this is the case, was she really the best that the entire state of Alaska had to put on the plate for Sarah Palin to pick from? Are we really to believe that this wasn’t just rank nepotism and the rewarding of less qualified pals over potentially more qualified candidates? I’m having flashbacks to Harriet Miers, here. Is that the type of selection criteria we want from somebody who may have to step into the Oval Office at any time? Heckuvajob, there.

Ed also notes that:

And how has Havemeister performed as Director? The Times doesn’t report any complaints. If she’s that bad of a choice, how can Havemeister have succeeded?

Yes, my friend. With the rate that other “agricultural directors” around the country come under close scrutiny and have been falling like dominos to massive corruption scandals, she clearly must have excelled. Let’s face it, poorly qualified or even incompetent functionaries get appointed all the time and regularly manage to skate through entire careers so long as no pressure is applied. Nobody noticed Heckuvajob Brownie’s background until after Katrina pulled the veil away.

It may not look like a huge issue, but as many of our friends on the Right have said about Obama repeatedly, “it goes to a question of judgement.” Particularly when there’s such a thin resume to pick from, we have to take what we can find. And this is yet another troubling indicator of the type of governmental style and decision making that Palin has demonstrated thus far.

  

24 Comments

  1. It is kind of card to get excited about a Palin apointtee when Senator Obama is hinting that he will make a Chicago City Hall fixer, Valerie Jarrett, his White House Chief of Staff.

    After complaining about Halliburton and Blackswater, I would expect the Democrats to make sure that there were no signs on insider dealing in the coming Obama Administration.

  2. “it goes to a question of judgement.”

    exactly. how many qualified conservative women must be out there, rich with political experience, only to be passed by for a rank amateur? why vote for a guy who shoots from the hip if he can't even hit the target? (or, feel free to choose your own overused metaphor! hehe.)

  3. Gee, I worked for 5 years in a garden center and was the lead in the perennials and roses dept for 3 of them. I think I may be just as qualified as that lady. I should work as the head of a state dept just like her.

  4. vwcat, I think you need to move to either Alaska or Wyoming or N. Dakota. In small population states which don't catch the eye of the national press very often, you could very well have a shot!

    Well, it would also help if you're related to or went to school with the Governor.

  5. Hell, my mom grew up on a dairy farm. She got up early every morning, went out and helped run it. She was even in 4-H in high school! Despite the fact that she's a microbiologist now, and hasn't worked on the farm since college, I think I'm going to start agitating to get her elected as Georgia's Agricultural Commissioner.

  6. “It is kind of card to get excited about a Palin apointtee when Senator Obama is hinting that he will make a Chicago City Hall fixer, Valerie Jarrett, his White House Chief of Staff.”

    Super, can you source that?

    I have been thinking it would most likely be Tom Daschle. No evidence of that, just gut reaction having watched the campaign.

  7. OK…..superdestroyer is pulling a McCain. In other words, he's lying. He refers to Jarrett as a Chicago City Hall fixer. Does anyone doubt that phrasing it this way is an attempt to say that is her only political experience? Oddly enough that is not how the article describes her.

    Valerie Jarrett. Chicago businesswoman Valerie Jarrett is one of Obama's closest confidants across the spectrum of policy and politics. She is a former senior adviser to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and was finance chairwoman of Obama's 2004 campaign for the Senate, serving as a bridge between the private sector and Obama's political organization. She now runs the Habitat Co., a real estate development and management firm, and is the former chairwoman of the Chicago Transit Authority Board and the Chicago Stock Exchange.

    Jarrett, 51, got started in politics and government when she worked for Harold Washington, Chicago's first black mayor. Later, in the 1990s, as an aide to Mayor Daley, she hired a young Michelle Obama to work for the city. She remains a close friend of both Michelle and Barack, and is proud of her role as someone who will give them both her unvarnished views.

    In a recent interview with National Public Radio, Jarrett said, “Friends are there to tell you something that's not very popular. And I think, you know, as we see often in life, as people reach higher and higher planes, oftentimes people are a little, you know, shy.” She added, “So to have a friend who can say to you, you know, quite candidly what he or she thinks is probably a good thing.”

    Jarrett could end up as a White House counselor or as chief of staff.

    Emphasis mine. superdestroyer is trying to emulate McCain in terms of BS shoveled.

  8. Uh, I've driven by fields of cows, and buy tomatoes from a local stand. Hey, I should submit my resume!

  9. Uh, I've driven by fields of cows, and buy tomatoes from a local stand. Hey, I should submit my resume!

  10. Jim,

    I believe the acutal word that is used in Chicago is “Clout.” If you want to do business in Chicago you have to hire people like Ms. Jarret because she has everyone in City Hall on speed dial. Chicago is a very corrupt city in a corrupt state and he is someone who is in the middle of it. If you do not understand the word “fixer” that is your problem.

    If you have any credibility, you would be very worried about the type of people that Senator Obama is going to put into the White House. If corruption was really important to the partisan left, they would start now to limited the amount of corruption that is going to occur once the clout types start arriving from Chicago. However, if you are just motivated by hatred of the right, then I guess that corruption just does not matter.

  11. Jim,

    I believe the acutal word that is used in Chicago is “Clout.” If you want to do business in Chicago you have to hire people like Ms. Jarret because she has everyone in City Hall on speed dial. Chicago is a very corrupt city in a corrupt state and he is someone who is in the middle of it. If you do not understand the word “fixer” that is your problem.

    If you have any credibility, you would be very worried about the type of people that Senator Obama is going to put into the White House. If corruption was really important to the partisan left, they would start now to limited the amount of corruption that is going to occur once the clout types start arriving from Chicago. However, if you are just motivated by hatred of the right, then I guess that corruption just does not matter.

  12. Earlier this evening I Googled Franci Havemeister out of curiosity after reading about her in today’s NYT (Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes, 9/15/2008). I found the following information mostly through Anchorage Daily News articles posted on the web before Palin’s VP nomination. I would be interested in finding out if there is anything more of interest on the topic.

    Palin appointed school mate, Franci Havemeister, as the Alaska Agriculture Director. Havemeister’s husband’s parents are dairy farmers that supplied milk to Matanuska Maid dairy in Anchorage. Matanuska Maid had become state run entity in the 1980’s as a result of an earlier bankruptcy. It had been losing hundreds of thousands of dollars annual when Palin became Governor.

    After the original Agriculture and Conservation board determined that a state infusion of $600K would be sunk in the failing entity and that the dairy should close, Palin fired and replaced the board in order to keep the dairy open. The new board’s first act was to increase the amount paid to farmers for milk despite the fact that the entity was operating at a loss.

    The new board was surprised by substantial losses (near $300,000) included by the dairy in their second month and that the $62,000 profit they had claimed in their first month were in reality just about break even (due to accounting errors). They also determined to close the facility.

    The state required a $3.35 million minimum bid for the failing entity therefore attracting no bidders. Several members of Palin’s board then resigned in order to offer an arrangement to open a dairy cooperative in Wasilla (to include Franci Havemeister's father-in-law, Bob Havemeister) that would lease, at extremely low rates, equipment from Matanuska Maid. A competing dairy operation, Northern Lights Dairy, was interested in the assets but did not have an opportunity to bid.
    State Division of Agriculture asset manager Ray Nix, who reports to Franci Havemeister was in charge of the sale. The coop secured a $643,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant (e.g. earmark) for its start. The facilities and land of the former Matanuska Maid in Anchorage was sold at its appraised value and is now a storage facility. The coop is now operating as Matanuska Creamery

    The Palin administration granted an additional $200,000 to be dispersed to dairy farms that were dumping their milk during the transition. Upon closure, an audit shows wrongful “Disbursements of just over $39,000 were made to four in-state dairy producers” — money that should have been paid to creditors. I could not find the names of the farmers but suspect one of them is Bob Havemeister.

    Franci Havemeister imposed a gag order preventing anyone other than Ray Nix from discussion the transaction.

    +++

    I support local agriculture but these decisions and dealings appear to have made without transparency and give the impression of cronyism. Palin’s administration made poor judgment and costs the tax payers a significant amount of money while Palin insider’s appear to have come out of the situation well.

    A governor in another state that did not have windfall oil revenue could not have gotten away with this. Remove the oil revenue and Palin has no accomplishments and certainly no popularity.

  13. Earlier this evening I Googled Franci Havemeister out of curiosity after reading about her in today’s NYT (Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes, 9/15/2008). I found the following information mostly through Anchorage Daily News articles posted on the web before Palin’s VP nomination. I would be interested in finding out if there is anything more of interest on the topic.

    Palin appointed school mate, Franci Havemeister, as the Alaska Agriculture Director. Havemeister’s husband’s parents are dairy farmers that supplied milk to Matanuska Maid dairy in Anchorage. Matanuska Maid had become state run entity in the 1980’s as a result of an earlier bankruptcy. It had been losing hundreds of thousands of dollars annual when Palin became Governor.

    After the original Agriculture and Conservation board determined that a state infusion of $600K would be sunk in the failing entity and that the dairy should close, Palin fired and replaced the board in order to keep the dairy open. The new board’s first act was to increase the amount paid to farmers for milk despite the fact that the entity was operating at a loss.

    The new board was surprised by substantial losses (near $300,000) included by the dairy in their second month and that the $62,000 profit they had claimed in their first month were in reality just about break even (due to accounting errors). They also determined to close the facility.

    The state required a $3.35 million minimum bid for the failing entity therefore attracting no bidders. Several members of Palin’s board then resigned in order to offer an arrangement to open a dairy cooperative in Wasilla (to include Franci Havemeister's father-in-law, Bob Havemeister) that would lease, at extremely low rates, equipment from Matanuska Maid. A competing dairy operation, Northern Lights Dairy, was interested in the assets but did not have an opportunity to bid.
    State Division of Agriculture asset manager Ray Nix, who reports to Franci Havemeister was in charge of the sale. The coop secured a $643,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant (e.g. earmark) for its start. The facilities and land of the former Matanuska Maid in Anchorage was sold at its appraised value and is now a storage facility. The coop is now operating as Matanuska Creamery

    The Palin administration granted an additional $200,000 to be dispersed to dairy farms that were dumping their milk during the transition. Upon closure, an audit shows wrongful “Disbursements of just over $39,000 were made to four in-state dairy producers” — money that should have been paid to creditors. I could not find the names of the farmers but suspect one of them is Bob Havemeister.

    Franci Havemeister imposed a gag order preventing anyone other than Ray Nix from discussion the transaction.

    +++

    I support local agriculture but these decisions and dealings appear to have made without transparency and give the impression of cronyism. Palin’s administration made poor judgment and costs the tax payers a significant amount of money while Palin insider’s appear to have come out of the situation well.

    A governor in another state that did not have windfall oil revenue could not have gotten away with this. Remove the oil revenue and Palin has no accomplishments and certainly no popularity.

  14. Do you have a link for this information, please? My Google skills must be failing me, since I'm not finding the story.

  15. Do you have a link for this information, please? My Google skills must be failing me, since I'm not finding the story.

  16. Good reporting on one of those seems-insignificant-but-really, REALLY-isn't issues. Funny thing that when asked the definition of “Bush Doctrine,” she didn't merely reply “the same as mine.” If it looks like a pig, smells like a pig, oinks like a pig (but wears lipstick)…

  17. Good reporting on one of those seems-insignificant-but-really, REALLY-isn't issues. Funny thing that when asked the definition of “Bush Doctrine,” she didn't merely reply “the same as mine.” If it looks like a pig, smells like a pig, oinks like a pig (but wears lipstick)…

  18. I understand far more than you will ever be capable of, SD. Your current condition is called projection, attempting to paint me as being as willfully ignorant as you obviously are. The article I cited proved rather conclusively that the positions she held in Chicago city government are far from her only experience in government and business. In addition the position she held with the city government was with two different administrations. Thirdly, you have absolutely no proof beyond your own raging prejudices that Jarret was a “fixer”. Your claims that everyone in Chicago government is corrupt is even more hopelessly ignorant than someone who would believe there is no such thing as government corruption in many places.

  19. I understand far more than you will ever be capable of, SD. Your current condition is called projection, attempting to paint me as being as willfully ignorant as you obviously are. The article I cited proved rather conclusively that the positions she held in Chicago city government are far from her only experience in government and business. In addition the position she held with the city government was with two different administrations. Thirdly, you have absolutely no proof beyond your own raging prejudices that Jarret was a “fixer”. Your claims that everyone in Chicago government is corrupt is even more hopelessly ignorant than someone who would believe there is no such thing as government corruption in many places.

  20. Jazz,

    Well, here's the NYT piece.

  21. Jazz,

    Well, here's the NYT piece.

  22. Well gee, do you think it might help to find out what the job actually entails?

    Two of the major job responsibilities are product marketing and land sales.

    Sounds like a trusted friend with experience in Real Estate would be a perfect fit. But don't let the facts get in the way of your ranting!

    -Tony Rezko, Bill Ayers, and Rev. Wright

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