Airport board chooses new director
By VALERIE GARMAN / The News Herald
Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 19:41 PM.
WEST BAY — The Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) Board wasted no time Wednesday in deciding who will replace resigning airport director John Wheat.
At a special-called meeting Wednesday the board unanimously voted for deputy executive director Parker McClellan to fill Wheat’s shoes when he leaves for a job as director of the Sacramento (Calif.) County Airport System.
With Wheat set to leave ECP on April 5, board chairman John Pilcher said time is of the essence as McClellan transitions into the director’s position and the board searches for his replacement.
“We need to keep this operation moving in a forward, positive direction,” Pilcher said. “I don’t want one second to go by without something in leadership and moving forward. We just can’t afford not to.”
Board member Till Bruett agreed, stating the board should seek someone with a solid background in strategic planning, finance and accounting to fill the deputy director position.
Bruett said hiring McClellan would provide the continuity needed to keep the airport moving in the right direction.
“I think we’ve got to get it done; we don’t need a gap in leadership,” Bruett said. “The most important thing is I think (McClellan) is qualified to do the job.”
Pilcher will work with the airport’s legal representation to negotiate a contract with McClellan, whose salary has not yet been determined, and draft a request for proposals for hiring a firm to recruit a new assistant director. Both items will come before the board at the next meeting March 27.
“I think that (McClellan) has executed his duties well, I think he has performed well and I think he has carried and conducted himself well, which is vey important in a community like this,” Pilcher said.
The board commended Wheat for his two years at ECP, which helped the airport overcome a series of inaugural issues including lawsuits, environmental fines, cash-flow shortages and cost overruns.
“I appreciate the support this board has given me and given staff,” Wheat said. “Being able to accomplish what we’ve been able to accomplish, without your leadership we wouldn’t have been able to get that done.”
Wheat and McClellan both agreed there should be a seamless transition between now and April 5.
“It’s something I’ve been working toward and I’m very happy the board supports something I want to do,” said McClellan, who has held his position since August 2010. “I’ve worked in lockstep with (Wheat) over the last two years. … I’ve been part of those successes, and we’re going to continue to work that way.”
McClellan cited multiple projects that are ongoing or set to begin, including the development of a new crosswind runway, new covered parking, a stormwater augmentation project, environmental mitigation and completion of the airport’s master plan. He said officials also will continue to pursue additional air service carriers for ECP.
“There area a lot of things going on; they’re all important projects,” McClellan said. “Those are all priorities we will continue to work toward.”
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