Jackson Municipal Airport Authority has its first new CEO in nearly 25 years. The identity of the new airport boss should be known Thursday afternoon.
How, when and where the Airport Authority’s governing board selected the candidate is unclear. Authority spokesman Gene Moore insists he was left out of the loop and can’t help us there.
When the MBJ asked Moore last Thursday afternoon whether a selection had been made, he said he had nothing new to report on the hire, such as a scheduled special meeting to decide on a candidate.
Moore knew more Wednesday — but only to a point.
That’s when he emailed invitations to a 1:30 p.m. press conference in the meeting room of Medgar-Wiley Evers International Airport for a formal introduction of the person hired to replace Dirk Vanderleest, who retired as CEO at the end of September after nearly a quarter of a century in the post.
Moore said Wednesday he is unsure whether the Municipal Airport Authority Board had a special meeting to decide on a candidate from among finalists submitted by ADK Consulting & Executive Search, a Jacksonville, Fla., executive recruiting firm whose specialty is finding executives for small and medium size commercial airports. He said if the board held a special meeting he does not know whether or how public notice of the meeting was given or when and where the meeting would have been held.
Though ostensibly the appointment would have required a vote in public session, thus making the identity of the new CEO a matter of public record, Moore declined to identify the person appointed. He said an open records request and a 14-day wait would be required.
Fortunately, we won’t have to navigate the bureaucratic obstacles of an open records request and should be able to report on the new hire tomorrow.
Perhaps someone at the Airport Authority will also shed light on the mysterious process that led to the CEO selection.
Well, here is the rest of the story as I attended most of the board meetings during the second half of 2014. The board hired a recruiting firm to find candidates for the position. ADK is a reputable firm that deals only in the aviation industry. It doesn't "headhunt" in various fields with aviation as an afterthought. ADK recommended that the board establish a search committee made up of board members, the Chamber of Commerce, business leaders, and other members of the community.
The commissioners seemed as if they would go along with that recommendation but at the next meeting, went into executive session to discuss the matter. The board chose to exist as the search committee and discuss everything in executive session as a "personnel matter". Good work, John Walker. Such are the ways of Bennie. There is not one single commissioner who has any aviation experience. Only one has any business experience. A nurse, a retired government employee, a CPA/Lawyer, retired school administrator, and a retired probation officer who know works as a DJ. The Chairwoman of the Board, Evelyn Reed, told JJ the board decided to act as the search committee.
The board seemed to forget it is an important economic engine for Central Mississippi - or it ignored that fact. The board was dead-set on controlling the search from the beginning and not allowing any one else to participate in the process, business community be damned. ADK may have done an outstanding job in finding a CEO candidate- but the airport is owned by the public and the public should not be shut out of this process.
Note: No invitation was sent to this website about the press conference. Anyone wonder why?