Thursday, December 11, 2014

Airport gets new CEO today. Questions raised.

The Mississippi Business Journal reported that the Board of Commissioners for the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority will announce the name of the new CEO at a press conference today:


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? 

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

KF, are all current board members Chokwe appointees?

Anonymous said...

Why you knocking the man for being a DJ? If he was a Republican you would call him a "self employed business leader in the entertainment industry."

Kingfish said...

ALl but one.

Anonymous said...

Why are the Jackson city leaders not concerned with a situation so vital to our city and state? The Jackson International Airport was very important when we were determining a name for the structure.

Anonymous said...

KF, are you able to articulate why the board's discussion of the hiring of a chief executive for the JMAA is NOT a personnel matter and thereby a clearly appropriate subject for executive session? Maybe I'm missing something.

Anonymous said...

A DJ? A nurse? A Probation officer? One with business experience and NONE with aviation experience? This is like a board you would find in a third world county? I would make some derogatory comments about Jackson but they are to stupid to understand.

Anonymous said...

Well, the board is qualified to recognize the most important factor: skin color.

Anonymous said...

Do we gets a per diem for today's meeting?

Anonymous said...

Jackson should have direct flights to all key cities in the Kush.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to go way out on a limb here and say the new CEO will look dramatically different than Dirk Vanderleest. In fact, I suspect you'd be able to tell them apart even if you were standing on opposite ends of the runway from them. Bet me I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

DonnerKay taking a swipe at you Kingfish?

Anonymous said...

Antar is ready to lead.

Anonymous said...

I have two turntables and a microphone. I also have been playing a free WWII flight simulator game on my PC. I think I am qualified now to be on the board. Dreams do come true at Jaxn International Airport!

Anonymous said...

I think discussions regarding a potential hire fall within the personnel exemption. This is no different than when selecting candidates for University presidents, agency heads, etc., and those names and deliberations aren't disclosed. JMAA has the authority to make this decision without seeking public input. You can complain about the process, but it doesn't appear to have violated the law. Plus, any pick would be tentative until a public vote is taken.

I want per diem too said...

Has anyone head a rumor that this is connected to Kush Air (Spirit of the South) beginning direct service to Jackustan International?

Kingfish said...

The board is free to choose who it desires. However, the complaints are about the process. It has the right to meet in executive session and indeed it should do so as a serious candidate shouldn't lose his job because he is trying to better himself.

However, the search committee should include more diversity and some business leaders. There is not one single person with aviation expertise on the board. No pilots, no one with any airline experience. No one who is familiar with how avionics and airports work. They don't even know what questions to ask but instead have to believe the consultants when they say "trust us".

Anonymous said...

as long as the new director does a good job in recruiting a low-cost carrier back to the airport, it's all good. if it's an insider crony pick, we will be flying out of madison county international airport in about 5 years...

Anonymous said...

One of board members, Vernon Hartley, was in the Air Force, so we can assume he's at least seen a plane.

Anonymous said...

KF, that's what they paid the consultants the big bucks for. ADK is a well respected search firm in the aviation industry that is fully capable of advising the board.

Anonymous said...

The problem isn't that the board members are unqualified, it's that someone has the ability to pack the board with people who aren't qualified, and it's hardly limited to JMAA.

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