Monday, February 07, 2011

Former Lt. Governor Craig Campbell Replaces Tom Case as Head of Alaska Aerospace Corporation

Here's a press release from the Alaska Aerospace Corporation dated January 31, 2011.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE    January 31, 2011
Alaska Aerospace Corporation Announces Craig E. Campbell to Become President and Chief Operating Office
Dale Nash, Alaska Aerospace Corporation Chief Executive Officer announced today that former Lieutenant Governor Craig E. Campbell will become the President and Chief Operating Officer for Alaska Aerospace Corporation effective February 15, 2011. “I am pleased to have Craig join our team at AAC. He brings a wealth of state and federal government experience which will be invaluable as we pursue a more diversified business portfolio in aerospace across Alaska.” Mr. Nash commented.
Craig Campbell is replacing Mr. Tom Case, who has accepted a new position as Chancellor for the University of Alaska, Anchorage.    “I want to thank Tom Case for his outstanding support and service to Alaska Aerospace Corporation. Under Tom’s leadership, AAC has achieved tremendous success in our launch capabilities. During the past three years, AAC has continued to mature from a development company into a significant national aerospace business. I know that the University of Alaska is gaining one of Alaska’s finest leaders.” Mr. Nash stated. . . [it continues, you can get the pdf here.]
What's particularly interesting to me in this announcement is that it is dated January 31, the very same day of the memo sent out by UA President Gamble announcing Tom Case's appointment as Chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Craig Campbell's appointment couldn't have happened before they knew that Case was leaving.  So, they must have known that Case was leaving before January 31.  How long does it take to know there is an opening and to find a replacement?  One day?  Two?  Eight?

Gamble had had one meeting - January 18 - of an assumed search committee for the Chancellor position.  But already on November 23, 2010 he'd written a memo saying that national searches were expensive and hinting he might skip such a process.  Participants in the meeting were asked to make a list of criteria for choosing a good Chancellor. 

That meeting was eight working days before he announced the Case appointment.  Had Gamble already chosen Case?  Were the people at the Aerospace Corporation already contacting Campbell?   Who all knew?  When did they know?  How long was Campbell in line for the Aerospace job? 

From their website:
The Alaska Aerospace Corporation was established by the State of Alaska to develop a high technology aerospace industry in the state.
Exactly what is the relationship between the Corporation and the State?  How did they manage to hire someone so quickly?  How do they select people?  Clearly there was no search process there either.  Is Craig Campbell really the best person in the United States to run the Alaska Aerospace Corporation?  How much does this position get paid?  You can see his qualifications at Wikipedia.

UA President Gamble was executive of the Alaska Railraod before becoming President of the University of Alaska. The Railroad is another independent corporation and it's owned by the State of Alaska.

Robert Caro won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Robert Moses, The Power Broker. Moses was pretty much the man who created public authorities in the US - government entities that were independent of public scrutiny and accountability. It appears that Alaskans ought to be checking on the various such organizations we have to be sure that there is proper oversight and that their hiring procedures are ones that insure we get the best possible people to run them.

This other posts on this topic:

The Alaska Military-Educational Complex: Gen. Tom Case to be New UAA Chancellor 

UAA Faculty Senate Upset about Chancellor Appointment Process

UA President Apologizes to UAA Fauclty

Choosing a Chancellor:  One Decision, Two Cultures


  1. Campbell was the commissioner for Military & veterans Affairs (head of National Guard). The aerospace corp is tight with the National Guard leadership. The Missile defense unit (3 or 4 guys) at Ft Greely and Clear is part of the NGAK/DMVA

  2. Zounds, cronyism? Well sure. The question is, what can you do about it after they've legalized and acculturated the practice. It's to be expected. There is no shame attached, not like that's likely to ever have been a consideration.

  3. Humans are social animals. We trust more what we know or who we know. Witness the startling realities of hiring practices that occur outside advertised postings. Executives admit that often they choose a candidate from among people they already know and for good reason. The hiring process is seen as a 'crap shoot' when one doesn't know the candidates. Open hiring can become a game system that must be complied with to gain the candidate already (secretly) chosen.

    This is behavior involving more than public authorities or large institutions. It occurs even at the mom and pop store.

    In the end, does it afford a good result? Perhaps more often to candidates who built the relationships. Perhaps not to the person without such relationships. The current situation seems to favor who one knows and our circles of fellow travellers.

    Won't it always even if we regulate it?

  4. I should add a qualification to my post above: This is all predicated on a chosen candidate having met published qualifications for a post... however, qualifications can and are written to match a pre-selected candidate.

    Such is life! And to make one more comment of the obvious, Alaska is a military culture, folks, in a highly militaristic nation.

  5. Jay, I know you're just trying to get a rise out of me. And you succeeded.

    No question, we want to hire those we know and trust. And they will owe us a similar favor down the line. That's why a form of merit system first passed Congress in the 1872. And came to states and local governments over the next 50 years or so.

    The merit system doesn't guarantee the right person for the job, but it increases the odds. Otherwise a form of merit hire wouldn't be the norm in most sizable businesses.

    Mom and Pop stores don't have enough employees to have a full time expert on human resources and without getting expertise, they may well stay Mom and Pop. And legislators recognize this by exempting businesses with fewer than 50 employees from many regulations.

    Back to the topic. There are two key things we consider when hiring in the US - particularly in governmental organizations:
    1. Getting the best possible person for the job
    2. Being fair to the applicants

    You list one possible advantage to choosing people you know - there's more certainty. Certainty of what? Loyalty maybe. Competence? Not necessarily. But we have learned how to conduct professional searches and background checks to increase the likelihood that applicants' strengths and weaknesses will be uncovered.

    Hiring friends has liabilities. They may well assume their personal relationship trumps the professional relationship and expect to get away with things others wouldn't. And when you do have problems with an employee/friend handling it can jeopardize your social network.

    In either case you may not get the best. An open search won't necessarily get someone who will do well in the job, but most times it allows you to measure your preferred candidate against other applicants. That also insures the public and other employees that the best candidate got the job. (Or, if not, it's all out there for everyone to see.)

    But when no one even knows there is an opening and no one else can come forward as a candidate for the job, then we can never be sure that we have the best possible person in the job. And we always have the suspicion that favoritism played a big role.

  6. Well, Steve, I just spent the better part of an hour replying to you and when I went to send it, it was lost. Another lesson in writing longer posts off-line!

    I have to get back to studying now. Just a break.

  7. I saw this when I was in the military (men who were just getting ready to retire got a cush job in the civilian fed side). I have seen in the UA system and the State of Alaska system. It is pathetic. Where is a highly qualified yet not well connected woman suppose to go?

  8. jay... after you finish typing the post, copy it to the clipboard before you do anything else. then if it gets fouled up you can paste it back.

  9. Ah, yes. Well, my words are consigned to the ages now in a blissful electronic sleep...

    I will do better in the future (a refrain for self-improvement when one would really rather kick a rock).


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