(This is a new series focusing on those that have made FirstNet a reality for Public Safety.)
By W. Brent Lee, Public Safety Consultant
When Ed Parkinson was named the acting CEO of the First Responder Network Authority in October of 2018, his assignment related to public safety broadband that has represented a full cycle from a committee policy staffer to overseeing the program he helped legislatively create.
During the fifteen months after the new post, he manages a program with a federal budget of $81 million as monitor of a contract with AT&T. Ed gained the trust of first responders and his colleagues across the industry as FirstNet partners with AT&T to deliver dependable communications solutions to police, fire, and EMS officers around the country.
Ed has been part of FirstNet since its inception. As a staff member of the House Homeland Security Committee prior to the passage of the legislation, Ed was instrumental in writing draft legislation and bringing attention to the need of public safety broadband. Once the legislation was passed Ed was hired by FirstNet to lead the successful nationwide opt-in process for 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the 5 territories. “He is the real deal,” said Chris Moore, Chief of Police (ret.) San Jose Police Department and Principal with Brooks Bawden Moore. “Ed has been an important part of FirstNet since its very beginning.”
“The FirstNet Authority is fortunate to have someone of Ed Parkinson’s background and experience in the CEO role,” said Sue Swenson, former Chair of the FirstNet Authority. “His involvement in the legislation that created FirstNet along with being one of the first employees in the FirstNet Authority working closely with Public Safety, Congress, the Administration and key personnel in all the states and territories uniquely positions him to have one of the most complete views of all of his constituents.”
In 2012 when Congress created FirstNet, the nation’s first, nationwide first-responders’ network enabling priority and preemption for emergency and public safety personnel, Parkinson served asa staffer on the Homeland Security Committee, then chaired by longtime New York Congressman Peter King. In these experiences, Parkinson worked hands-on withborder security, emergency preparedness, cybersecurity and investigated waste and fraud of Government resources. In developing FirstNet’s enacting legislation, he also had a chance to hear directly from first responders.
“In addition to being a proven leader at FirstNet, Ed has earned the trust of the public safety community,” said Chief (ret.) Jeff Johnson, CEO of Western Fire Chiefs. “After all, FirstNet is the ‘Public Safety Broadband Network’ and possessing the confidence of the public safety community is essential as we manage future investments in the network.”
After AT&T stepped forward into the private-partner role, Parkinson helped lead engagement with the stakeholders in the nationwide campaign to bring the various states and territories into the FirstNet program. In 2018, Parkinson stepped into the role as acting CEO for FirstNet, succeeding Mike Poth, and promised to continue to deliver “world class” service for public safety.
Parkinson’s contacts on the Hill and ability to interface with end-users made him an invaluable resource for FirstNet as acting-CEO during his year at the helm. “Very few people understand where FirstNet came from and where it is going like Ed” said Richard Mirgon who was part of the effort to get the legislation passed. “He understands the need, the goals, the objectives and the users. This is a valuable and critical set of experiences that is imperative to FirstNet’s success.”
“His insights, steady disposition, and determination have helped move our network to responders around our nation, improving communication and making us all safer,” said Al H. Gillespie, President of Public Safety Broadband Technology Association and Past President of International Association of Fire Chiefs.
W. Brent Lee is a retired Law Enforcement Official, public safety consultant and Past President of APCO International with over 30 years of first responder and public safety experience. Having spent nearly half of his career managing communications functions Brent is a major supporter of FirstNet and all it will bring to public safety.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of this company or any company with whom the author may be associated.