Executive Council confirms Mikolaities to lead NH National GuardBy DOUG ALDEN
New Hampshire Union Leader
September 18. 2017 6:28PM
CONCORD — The Executive Council confirmed Col. David Mikolaities on Monday to lead the New Hampshire National Guard.
Councilors approved the nomination by a 3-2 vote, which was delayed last week over questions regarding Mikolaities’ role in a construction project.
Attorney General Gordon MacDonald, Commissioner of Administrative Services Charlie Arlinghaus and staffers from both offices attended a special meeting of the Executive Council on Monday to address the concerns brought before the council last week by Councilor David Wheeler, R-Milford.
Wheeler asked for more time to answer questions about the construction of the Pembroke National Guard Training Center, which opened in December after years of setbacks and cost overruns.
After about 90 minutes of discussion, the nomination went to a vote and Mikolaities was confirmed by a 3-2 margin. He succeeds Maj. Gen. William Reddel, who plans to retire at the end of the month after holding the post since 2009.
“An exemplary guardsman and an American hero, there is no better choice to lead New Hampshire’s National Guard than Col. Mikolaities, and I am proud that he was confirmed today to serve as the next Adjutant General of the State of New Hampshire,” said Gov. Chris Sununu, who nominated Mikolaities.
Sununu mentioned more than once during Monday’s special meeting that discussion seemed to have veered away from the qualifications Mikolaities, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, had for the post.
Wheeler questioned the role Mikolaities played as chief of facilities during the construction of the new Guard Training Center in Pembroke. The project was bid on in 2011 and scheduled for completion by 2013, but construction work was halted in 2012 over questions of the quality of the work.
Wheeler asked whether this was a reflection of Mikolaities’ leadership abilities, which were supported throughout the meeting Monday by Sununu and Reddel, who said it was Mikolaities who questioned the winning bid and had enough concerns to assign National Guard personnel to monitor the project, which led to the discovery of concrete problems that stalled construction.
Wheeler also wanted to know more about a potential conflict of interest over a 2012 contract the Adjutant General’s Department issued to an engineering firm where Mikolaities’ brother, Gregg, was a vice president. It was actually one of seven firms to receive the contracts and Mikolaities recused himself from the selection process because of the potential conflict of interest.
Mikolaities did not attend the meeting and declined comment afterward, said Lt. Col. Greg Heilshorn, director of public affairs for the NH National Guard.
“It’s a good day for New Hampshire and the New Hampshire National Guard,” Heilshorn said. “Col. Mikolaities has shown great poise throughout this entire nomination process. He has demonstrated the kind of character and professionalism that will serve him well as the state’s next adjutant general.”
Despite statements from MacDonald, Arlinghaus and Reddel that Mikolaities had acted within the law and addressed the conflict himself, Wheeler and Councilor Joe Kenney, a Republican from Union, voted against the confirmation.
“What I’m concerned about is there will be a cloud there,” said Kenney, who unsuccessfully suggested another review be conducted. “It’s not going to go away whether it’s perception or reality, fact or fiction — whatever it is.”
Kenney’s suggestion got little support and once the discussion was over Sununu called for the vote. Kenney and Wheeler voted against Mikolaities, while counselors Chris Pappas of Manchester, Andru Volinsky and Russell Prescott of Kingston voted in favor, confirming the nomination.
“I’m a little concerned that there are some hidden agendas here by some of the counselors to submarine the colonel’s nomination on issues that really don’t pertain,” Volinsky said after the hearing.
Pappas, who urged at one point during the discussion that counselors focus on Mikolaities’ abilities to handle the post, said there was already plenty of vetting done before last week’s vote was postponed.
“He didn’t steer that contract to his brother. He declared that conflict and it made its way up the chain. I don’t have any question that he did the right thing, that he’s got integrity and that he’s going to lead with distinction,” Pappas said. “I think what you saw today was a no vote from two counselors in search of a rationale for that position. They did everything they could to try to undermine the integrity and honor of an individual who has been serving this state and this country well for decades.”