Thursday, January 01, 2015

Lafayette Regional Airport (KLFT) board close to naming new director

The list of four candidates for Lafayette Regional Airport director will be pared to three next week, and the finalist should receive a contract offer by the end of January, according to a member of the airport’s governing body.

The Lafayette Regional Airport Commission’s director search committee on Thursday will review video recorded interviews of the four finalists, Commissioner Paul Guilbeau said last week.

Of the four, three will emerge and be presented to the full Airport Commission at the Jan. 14 regular meeting for review

“I would say that any one of them could come in and do justice to the job,” Guilbeau said.

Guilbeau said that after the contract offer is made, negotiations would begin and a new director named sometime in early 2015.

Guilbeau and other commission members traveled in mid-December to airports in Atlanta, Baton Rouge, New Iberia, and Amarillo, Texas, to interview the four finalists at their work sites.

While there, Larry Sides with Sides & Associates videoed the interviews and flight operations. The recordings and other material of the four candidates will be used to reduce the list to three finalists, Sides said last week.

Former airport Director Greg Roberts resigned in June following a dust-up at the airport. Roberts reportedly pointed a fake handgun at an engineer with whom he was arguing. Though police were called, the Lafayette Parish District Attorney’s Office did not file charges against Roberts. District Attorney Mike Harson’s office said the engineer didn’t want to pursue the matter.

After ads were placed nationwide in airport publications and job boards, 31 people applied for the position from across the country. That list was whittled to eight, then five, then four. By the end of next week, there should be three finalists, barring any snags.

“That’s when we’ll really have to sit down and decide where we want to go,” Guilbeau said.

He said the full commission could use video telecommunications to talk to the remaining three candidates.

The four finalists are: Jason Devillier, the director at Iberia Parish Airport in New Iberia; Ralph Hennessy, assistant director of aviation at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport; Robert Kennedy, vice president for Aviation Strategies International and former official at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport; and Steven Picou, deputy director of aviation at the Amarillo International Airport.

The new director will be part of the planning and construction team that will oversee construction of an expanded commercial terminal at the Lafayette Airport, Guilbeau said.

On Dec. 6, Lafayette Parish voters approved a 1-cent sales tax to be levied over eight months next year to help pay for the terminal expansion and other enhancements, such as a bigger parking lot.

Accountants estimated the tax, which will run from April 1 until Nov. 30, will bring in $35 million to $37 million. The tax proceeds are to be dedicated to the airport and used along with money from federal and state airport grants and also borrowings to come up with the project’s estimated $90 million price tag.

The project will not be spearheaded by the next director, Guilbeau said.

“All four of the remaining applicants have said this is a project bigger than the director,” Guilbeau said. “But they want to be an integral part of the project.”


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