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.