Algirdas Stončaitis who replaced his shoulder-straps of a police officer for a suit a few years ago is Wednesday again becoming the right-hand man to Lithuania's Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis – the man from western Lithuania is taking the post of governmental chancellor, although his teenage dream was to be a sailor.
Algirdas Stončaitis
© Organizatorių archyvas

Applauded by his former colleagues for diligence and organizational skills, the 55-year-old father of two is replacing Milda Dargužaitė who resigned last November who was less familiar with corridors of the government and ministries but with a bigger focus on changes.

Special features of duties of government chancellors often make them choose between becoming proactive political leaders or focusing his time on administrative functions of heading the office and holding government meetings.

Vitalis Nakrošis, expert of public governance, forecasts that Stončaitis will assume the latter role.

"Stončaitis is more of a reflection of the body of leaders in the Lithuanian state service where the majority of people identify themselves with office administrators and play the traditional bureaucratic role rather than initiate changes," said Nakrošis, professor of the Vilnius University's International Relations and Political Science Institute.

Dreamed to Be Sailor

Stončaitis, a basketball fan, was raised in a family of a construction worker and a housewife in the Plungė district and graduated from the Plateliai Secondary School. He takes pride in his origin from Samogitia, an ethnic region of Lithuania, and has a Samogitian passport.

After dreaming of becoming a sailor from his young days, Stončaitis entered the Klaipėda Nautical School, however, his plans were derailed by the duty to serve in the Soviet army.

After completing the mandatory service, he joined the Plungė district police and later entered the Soviet Interior Ministry's School in Minsk and graduated in 1987.

"I knew that I would never work at a machine tool and would never work at an immobile mechanical job, no matter how respected it is," said Stončaitis.

He worked for the criminal and traffic police, heading in-house investigations of the border service.

Stončaitis moved up the career ladder in 1997 – he was appointed as the commander of headquarters of the Border Police Department. In 2001, he briefly served as deputy commissioner general of the police and later was the adviser at the Police Department for eight years.

"If Stončaitis was instructed with some idea, you could not even check and control, as you would always know that everything would be followed through 100 percent," said Vytautas Grigaravičius, current mayor of Alytus who headed the police in 2001-2008.

Supervisor But Not a Leader?

Critics say that the new government chancellor may lack the talent for innovations, adding that this way the prime minister who proposed Stoncaitis sends a negative signal to those expecting reforms.

The prime minister and the chancellor started working as a team in 2011 after being appointed as the police chief, while Stončaitis was his deputy. After Skvernelis was sworn in as the interior minister in 2014, Stončaitis became the ministry's chancellor and worked in the position until now.

"He is a good farmer and administrator of the old nomenclature but not a leader for innovations, ideas and change. Furthermore, he is ego-centered, rather revengeful and adapting to any administration," an official who worked with Stončaitis at the Interior Ministry said on condition of anonymity.

In Nakrošis' words, appointing a bureaucrat as the government's chancellor shows that the prime minister may drop his intentions of implementing major reforms.

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