August 2, 2001
Canton native named ambassador to Singapore
By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Wednesday confirmed Canton native Franklin L. Lavin to be ambassador to Singapore.
“It’s one of the highest honors in a democracy, the opportunity to represent one’s country abroad,” he said after learning of the unanimous voice vote Wednesday. “In addition ... there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Before he heads to Singapore later this month, Lavin, 43, will meet with President Bush for the first time in a yet to be scheduled get-together. “It’s general policy (for the president) to try to see ambassadors for final instructions and final review of issues and so forth,” he said. “It’ll be an important meeting.”
Lavin is the second person from the area to win confirmation as ambassador after his selection by Bush. Donald J. McConnell, a career foreign service officer who grew up in Massillon, earlier won Senate approval as ambassador to Eritrea in Africa. Lavin and McConnell each will receive annual salaries of $125,700.
In his new post, Lavin, his wife and three children will reside in the ambassador’s residence, which he has yet to see.
“It usually is well designed for representational purposes,” he said.
When heads of state or foreign ministers visit, “you want to be able to accommodate (their) party or when (Secretary of State) Colin Powell visits Singapore, you host the dinner in his honor.”
While some ambassadorial postings carry few if any major challenges, Lavin, with a decade of private sector and government experience in Asian business and trade, anticipates a full plate.
His three most immediately pressing issues, he said, include working with Singapore to promote economic and political stability in nearby Indonesia, negotiating a free-trade pact with Singapore similar to the North American Free Trade Agreement and finding ways to help the prosperous island nation crack down on piracy and drug smuggling.
Along with being the 10th-ranking trading partner of the United States, Singapore is the only other nation in the world with a pier large enough to accommodate U.S. aircraft carriers.
“That means we stop there a lot,” said Lavin, who attended Phillips Andover prep school before earning a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins and University of Pennsylvania.
While Lavin raised or donated more than $100,000 to the Bush campaign, he believes the more critical factors in his selection as ambassador were the assistance he gave to the campaign in planning, policy and strategy, and his experience working for Powell when he was deputy national security adviser to President Reagan in 1987.
Lavin also possesses a “very strong background” in Chinese language and history, trade, finance and international economics, he said.