Metro Council to select airport director

    The Baton Rouge Metro Airport could have a new director as soon as Wednesday.
    The Metro Council is scheduled to choose between the two remaining finalists for the position on Wednesday, though the council was originally scheduled to vote on a new director at its July 25 meeting.
    At that time there were three finalists for the high profile job: Austin Futch, Don Green and Derek Martin. But after a 20-minute hearing, during which several council members appeared confused about the procedure and several others asked for more time, the council voted to defer the matter for two weeks.
    The next day, Green, director of transportation services for the city of Abilene, Texas, and a previous director of the Gulfport-Biloxi airport, asked the city to remove his name from consideration, according to Metro Council Administrator Ashley Beck.
    Though Green did not give a reason for dropping out of the running, he appeared not to have any champions on the council. At the July 25 meeting, Barbara Freiberg, who pushed for the national search for the new director and served on the search committee, moved that the council offer the job to Futch. He works for the aeronautical firm Cleared Direct and previously held management positions with the aviation wing of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and with the Shreveport Airport Authority.
    Chauna Banks, who also served on the search committee, then moved that the council offer the position to Martin, who is currently not employed but was previously vice president of operations and maintenance at the Wayne County Airport Authority in Michigan from 2016-2017. He was also employed for several years with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
    Neither candidate secured the necessary seven votes, and no one on the council could agree on what pay level to offer the position to either candidate, so council Chairman Scott Wilson moved for a deferral. Initially, that motion failed, too. Later in the meeting, Freiberg brought it up again and it passed.
    The search for a new airport director became a contentious issue in late 2017 between those who wanted to bring in an outsider to run the airport and, hopefully, help increase direct air service to Baton Rouge, and those who wanted to appoint then-interim director Ralph Hennessy to the job permanently.
    Hennessy was a veteran executive of the Baton Rouge Metro Airport, who served under longtime director Anthony Marino until Marino’s retirement in January 2017.  He has since left for a job in the private sector.

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