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August 24. 2014 8:07PM

GOP's Walt Havenstein wants to empower and inspire


HAVENSTEIN 

Walt Havenstein faced a tough meeting shortly after he became chief executive officer at the Nashua-based defense contractor Sanders in 1999.

He sat down to meet with mid-level managers, who gave him the bad news. Technology and dot.com businesses were booming, and Sanders was losing 15 percent of its technical talent every year.

Why, he asked each of the 20 managers, did they stay? All talked about the importance of the job — building sophisticated computer systems that kept military airplanes and helicopters safe from enemy fire.

One of the managers coined a phrase — We Protect Those Who Protect Us. It became the company motto. The company eventually trademarked the slogan, and attrition fell to 3 percent.

“That sense of why they were there changed the whole culture of the company,” Havenstein said.

A former CEO of two multi-million-dollar technology companies, Havenstein touts his business experience in his campaign to win the Republican nomination for governor, a seat now held by one-term Democrat Maggie Hassan.

Havenstein (pronounced hav-en-STINE) is 65 and lives in Alton. He preaches the gospel of empowerment, something he said he learned in the Marines, honed in corporate leadership and wants to bring to state government.

As the head of the Sanders/BAE operations in New Hampshire, Havenstein set a numerical goal — 8.15.00 (Aug. 15, 2000), the deadline for completion of the company's work on the F-22 fighter jet.

As governor, he would set a similar goal — 25,000 new jobs by 8.15.17. He said the jobs have to be new, in the private sector and full-time.

“Date certain, ambitious, but achievable objective,” Havenstein said last week in an interview at the New Hampshire Union Leader.

“Walt Havenstein's not going to do all that,” Havenstein said. “Thirty-some (state) departments and agencies; there's some great people there.”

As for a slogan? He expects a state worker to come up with it.

Havenstein hopes to cut the state business profits tax rate by about 10 percent, which would likely cause a short-term drop in state revenues. He said he will use efficiencies and effectiveness — not line-item budget cuts — to offset the revenue declines.

And he plans to empanel an advisory board to help him address five key topic areas of state government — regulatory reform, taxes, education, energy and infrastructure, health. “I don't know why it wouldn't be open (to the public),” he said.

Democrats have latched onto Havenstein's tenure at a smaller government technical services company, SAIC, and on his Maryland residency. Here is his response:

CEO at SAIC

Havenstein took the job at SAIC in September 2009. The company was a technical services contractor that relied mostly on government contracts. The Havenstein campaign said he was recruited for the job, and the company knew the financial difficulties ahead with government cutbacks in wake of the recession.

Projects were going to be terminated, and the company was going to consolidate, Havenstein sad.

“My role was to get us ready to be more competitive, more efficient,” he said. He told divisions to “punch your own weight.”

Nonetheless, the company lost 5,000 jobs during his 2 1/2 years, and the stock dropped 32 percent. Havenstein said the drop in stock value was consistent with other companies in the sector.

Shortly after he joined the company, Havenstein said he and the general counsel uncovered a scheme to defraud New York City on a contract to provide a web-based payroll management system. Federal prosecutors were investigating, and the company eventually paid a fine of $500 million.

Havenstein said the fraud became a “survivability issue” and he focused on making sure the fraud was not part of the company culture. He left after working out a departure agreement with the board of directors.

“I was done. I had done what I could do,” he said.

At BAE, he had a more successful run. The number of BAE employees in New Hampshire grew from 3,500, to 5,000 from 2007 to 2009, when he was chief-executive of BAE’s North American operations.

Maryland residency

Havenstein, who maintained a home in Maryland, narrowly survived a decision by the New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission on whether he could be a voter and office holder in the Granite State.

Earlier this year, the Commission voted 3-2 that he was a New Hampshire resident for voting purposes.

Last week, Maryland billed him for $9,000 in back property taxes, saying he was ineligible to claim five years of resident-only tax credits. The state claimed Havenstein was not a Maryland resident.

Havenstein said he fit the definition for a Maryland resident under Maryland law — live in Maryland for seven months. And he fit the definition of a New Hampshire voter under New Hampshire law — his domicile is in Alton, where he moved to in 2004. He’s voted exclusively in New Hampshire since 1999, his campaign said.

He plans to get a lawyer to examine the Maryland tax situation. If the state of Maryland made a mistake and should not have granted him a tax credit, he will pay the appropriate taxes, he said.

During an hour-long interview, Havenstein said he wants to try to target education funding to needy school districts without an constitutional amendment. He said he opposes the legalization of marijuana.

And although he thinks governors shouldn’t get involved in private business disputes, he’d tell Arthur S. Demoulas to “get out of the way” in the dispute over control of Market Basket.

“If everybody behaved in the context of what’s in the best interest of customers and co-workers,” Havenstein said, “this would be a very, very different story.”

mhayward@unionleader.com


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