Monday, November 24, 2014

Finalists for Lafayette Regional Airport (KLFT) director’s job narrowed to four: Committee hopes to have leader named in early 2015

LAFAYETTE — Lafayette Airport Commission members this week narrowed the list of applicants who want to run Lafayette Regional Airport from five to four and ,in December, will travel to airports in Louisiana, Texas and Georgia for site interviews.

The commission on Thursday decided not to include David Blackshear in the final four, commission search committee head Paul Guilbeau said.

Blackshear, of Lafayette, is vice president of Applied Airport Technology in Maryland.

The remaining applicants are: Jason Devillier, of Lafayette, director at the Iberia Parish Airport in New Iberia; Ralph Hennessy, of Baton Rouge, assistant director of aviation at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport; Robert Kennedy, of East Point, Georgia, vice president of consulting services for Aviation Strategies International in Georgia; and Steven Picou, of Amarillo, Texas, deputy director of aviation at the Amarillo International Airport in Texas.

The selections were made based on recent interviews conducted via video teleconferencing. Each interview lasted less than an hour.

Guilbeau said he and one other member of the search committee would travel to Baton Rouge, New Iberia, Atlanta and Amarillo to interview the finalists. Each interview will take place over two days. Larry Sides, whose firm Sides & Associates is helping with the director search, will make the trips to video the interviews.

Guilbeau said he expects to conduct the interviews before the end of December.

The committee plans to reduce the number of applicants to three in late December or early January and the full commission will then choose a director from that list. Guilbeau said the director would be chosen “in early 2015.”

The list of applicants started with 31 who responded to a nationwide search that ended in October. That was quickly whittled to eight, then to five.

The five-member search committee is composed of three commission members — Guilbeau, Tim Skinner and Valerie Gotch Garrett — and appointees from government and business: Stone Energy Chief Executive Officer David Welch and Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux.

“It’s getting harder and harder to peel them now,” Guilbeau said, a nod to the quality of the remaining candidates. Each is pursuing a job that pays $100,000 to $150,000 a year, depending on experience.

The job became available in June after longtime airport Director Greg Roberts resigned.

Commission members have placed cordiality and people skills on applicants’ must-have qualities. Guilbeau has said the new director “needs to be the face of the airport and the people of Lafayette.”

Depending on the outcome of a Dec. 6 tax election, the new director could oversee construction of a new airport terminal that would expand parking and increase the number of boarding gates from three to five.

A 1-cent sales tax would be levied on goods in Lafayette Parish except groceries and medicine, and bring in $35 million to $37 million. The tax would be temporary, officials have said, running from April 1 through Nov. 30, 2015.

The money would be combined with bond issues and matching state and federal grants to reach the $90 million engineers estimate is needed to build the terminal.

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