D.C. panel approves Fenty nominee for homeland security chief

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's nominee to lead the city's Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency was unanimously approved Tuesday by a D.C. Council committee, despite her lack of experience in the field. The nomination still has to be approved by the full council.

Millicent D. Williams, who has a degree in business with a concentration in commercial banking, previously worked as president of the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. and executive director of Serve D.C.-- experience different from that of her predecessors.

Fenty (D) tapped her in October to replace Darrell Darnell, who left to take a post on the White House national security staff. He served more than 20 years in the military and had a decade of involvement with professionals in fire and emergency management and law enforcement, said council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary.

Williams also does not hold a security clearance that would allow her to receive information about suspicious activity and attend meetings of a Joint Terrorism Task Force. She testified at her confirmation hearing Friday that she is in the process of obtaining the clearance and is pursuing a master's degree in homeland defense and security. She said in an e-mail to The Washington Post that she was pleased to have been approved.

Eric Holdeman, a consultant on homeland security based in Washington state, said in an interview that Williams's résumé is sparse for the District, where security issues are amplified by its status as the nation's capital. "This is the most demanding of positions there is," he said. "The issue would be: Is she 360 degrees, all-around proven in actual disaster . . . ? No. If I was the mayor of D.C., I'd do a national search."

Some council members had initial concerns, but Mendelson, who is known as a Fenty critic, said they were swayed by Williams's enthusiasm and the overwhelming support she drew at her confirmation hearing. Former D.C. emergency management directors Peter LaPorte and Barbara Childs-Pair, Darnell's predecessor, spoke on her behalf, saying she has good management and people skills necessary for the job.

On another Fenty nominee, council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) has not yet been able to rally support for Vicky L. Beasley to head the Office of the People's Counsel, the independent agency that represents utility consumers. Some consumer advocates say Beasley, a lawyer at Patton Boggs, should not be replacing People's Counsel Elizabeth A. Noel, who has served six terms and who they say is better positioned to fight rate increases.

Beasley said in an e-mail Tuesday, "I believe the process may discourage qualified candidates to seek to serve at the local level despite all of the talent located in our nation's capital."

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