Fort Lauderdale airport executive a finalist for job in Tampa
Tampa International has four finalistsfor its executive director, including Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood’s director of aviation.
By TED JACKOVICS
Kent G. George, director of aviation at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, is among four airport executives on the short list of candidates for executive director at Tampa International Airport.
Information from various sources, including profiles they submitted to executive search consultant Spencer Stuart of Miami, indicate each has faced some measure of the political and financial vagaries they might encounter in Tampa.
Tampa International is at a threshold of change as business continues to decline in a poor economy, yet community desires for growth, in particular for international travel, persist.
“All four look good on paper,” Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board chairman Al Austin said. “We just have to learn more and be careful in our selection.”
Austin added that Tampa assistant airport director and interim director John Wheat and senior planning and development director Lou Russo should not be ruled out to replace Louis Miller, who left with a salary of $253,294.
The four candidates picked by the consultant are:
• Kevin A. Dillon, president and chief executive officer of Rhode Island Airport Corp., who was a deputy director of Orlando International Airport for eight months in 2007-2008. Dillon also was a manager at New York’s LaGuardia Airport in the mid-1990s.
He manages T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I., which serves Providence. The airport has suffered economy-related passenger declines, and Dillon laid off workers earlier this month, similar to a scenario playing out in Tampa.
• George, director of aviation at FLL since 2007. From 1998 to 2007, he was executive director of the Allegheny County, Pa., Airport Authority and Pittsburgh International Airport. In Pittsburgh, George was in charge of one of the nation’s most modern terminals that garnered top passenger survey ratings, similar to the reputation Tampa International has forged. However, the Pittsburgh airport became a major hub for US Airways, which nearly turned the new terminal into a white elephant after 2004 when the financially struggling airline pulled out nearly 100 daily flights.
George spent more than five years recruiting Southwest Airlines to Pittsburgh. City leaders also succeeded in putting together million-dollar plus incentive packages from government and private industry sources for a handful of international flights.
• Joseph W. Lopano, one of six executive vice presidents at Dallas Fort Worth International. Four vice presidents report to him covering air service development, aviation real estate, customer service and marketing.
• Lester W. Robinson, former chief executive officer of Detroit Metropolitan Airport. Robinson enjoys a strong reputation among airport officials backed by his direction of a 26-gate, $430 million terminal project he said was completed on time and under budget.
Robinson ran into a political firestorm with his airport board which in May chose not to renew his contract without providing a rationale, Crain’s Detroit Business reported.
Robinson also is one of three finalists for the Atlanta airport director, along with former Tampa airport director Miller, who also became entangled in political differences with the airport’s board. The Atlanta mayor is expected to choose the airport director on Sept. 3, so if Robinson were chosen, Tampa’s short list could drop to three.
The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board is scheduled to interview candidates on Sept. 15 and 16, authority spokeswoman Brenda Geoghagan said. The board could choose a new director at its Oct. 7 meeting.
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