Monday, January 30, 2012

Airport manager: Interim to permanent?

The city of Monroe's public works director hopes to shift the sitting interim airport manager into a permanent role if his "outstanding" performance continues to stay steady through this transitional period for the airport.

To find a full-time airport manager, Public Works Director Tom Janway said he's been talking with consulting companies that have helped place executive managers or people in aviation-type jobs.

For instance, Kutchins and Groh out of Fort Worth, Texas has helped the airport with its financial plans, airline lease negotiations, passenger facilities charges and grant applications. The company has an office in New Orleans, too, so Janway said he considered it local.

Janway has also been in contact with Chicago-based Pace Group, which has placed airport managers, he said. According to the company's website, these consultants specialize in executive searches for economic development, chambers of commerce, health care executives, and other senior-level positions.

Additionally, there have also been some discussions with ADK Executive Search out of Florida. This company specializes in airport management, he said.

But so far, Janway said he's been pleased with interim airport manager Ron Phillips' work so Phillips is on the top of Janway's list to fill the permanent position.

"What we're doing right now, we're trying to tie up all the loose ends," Janway said.

The new airport terminal opened in October, but phase II, which is the expansion of the parking lot and tearing down the old building to replace it with baggage claim and car rental services, is still underway. That's expected to be completed by Aug. 13. In the meantime, some kinks for phase I of the project are still being ironed out.

"The interim director is doing an absolutely fantastic job," Janway said last week. "We've moved forward with new leases for the airlines ... I met with him (Phillips) for an hour today and we went over setting up billing for rental car agencies, finalizing our contract with Coca-Cola. ..."

The airport is also gearing up for a Federal Aviation Administration regulation inspection that will take place within the next six to eight weeks. The FAA will evaluate the airport's training records, basic emergency medical training curriculum, tenants' fueling fire safety inspection records, emergency plan and records of safety self-inspections.

In addition, Phillips has been working on a new general services contract for engineering at the airport and with the fire chief to establish a new fire station on the airport property, Janway said. There's also a new airport shuttle he's put in place to carry passengers from the terminal to parking, but Janway said Phillips is going to improve that more by procuring a larger van with more features.

Moreover, Phillips has set up a customer service center staffed with two temporary employees.

When asked why a customer service center would be necessary for an airport the size of Monroe's, Janway said the representatives are available to help passengers with the inconveniences caused by current construction. For instance, passengers have complained that the airport's baggage claim and parking situation is confusing at times.

The temporary employees get paid about $8 an hour, Janway said, "At some point, when the project finishes and when the airport is more user-friendly, we may re-evaluate that," he said.

When asked whether Phillips might be able to stay on as the full-time airport manager, Janway said, "Absolutely."

Janway said he's known Phillips more than 20 years and that Phillips has served as an executive in private industry and worked for the Louisiana Workforce Development Commission. He will also review Phillips' performance as he continues to work through issues while the airport is cleaning up phase I and implementing phase II.

"I'm going to evaluate him based on the work he's doing now and to date it's been outstanding," Janway said. "I'm going to be giving him the opportunity to complete most of these tasks. If he can handle the transition, he can handle the day-to-day activities."

Eventually, Janway said he and Mayor Jamie Mayo will have to decide to "open up" the job, even if they choose to hire Phillips. In such a case, the city can limit the application process to city employees only, and Phillips can apply, Janway said.

Then, he would probably be the most qualified, Janway said.

Initially, city officials said they would conduct a national search to find a new airport director.

Cleve Norrell, who had managed the airport for more than 20 years, was fired on Nov. 22.

Now however, Janway said Phillips has shown interest in staying in the role and based on his performance, Janway's "very satisfied."

On Friday, Phillips said working in this capacity has been exciting.

"From a career standpoint I would consider it, but I haven't made a definite decision yet," he said.

In November, city spokesman Rod Washington said the city's goal is to have a new director in place by May 2012.

Last week, Janway said he isn't restricted by any deadlines to hire a full-time manager, so he's not going to be hasty.


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