The last remaining candidate for the long-vacant aviation director job at the Baton Rouge Metro Airport has withdrawn his name from consideration.
David “Austin” Futch, who was unanimously recommended for the position in June by a search committee, notified the consulting firm that had been helping in the search of his decision in an email Thursday.
Reached this morning by phone at the Austin Bergstrom International Airport—where he is director of the airport’s new privately owned and operated south terminal—Futch says he had hoped to lead the Baton Rouge airport and had “really great ideas for the facility and the community around it but it seemed there was some undue political influences involved and I don’t subscribe to that. My passion is aviation, not politics.”
Futch is not the first candidate to withdraw from the running in what has been a contentious and controversial process. In early August, the search committee’s No. 2 recommendation, Derek Martin, also removed his name from consideration and accepted a job in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Though both Futch, who is white, and Martin, who is black, were highly ranked and warmly received by the search committee that vetted them, when the two came before the Metro Council in July for a vote, the selection process devolved into a racial battle between councilmembers, who divided along predictable racial lines.
After Martin pulled out and Futch was the only remaining candidate, it seemed as if things would settle down and Futch would be offered the job. But the tensions only escalated, and the council deferred and stalled several times.
At Wednesday’s meeting, two competing measures were introduced for consideration at the Oct. 10 meeting. One, sponsored by councilmembers Dwight Hudson and Barbara Freiberg, recommended offering the position to Futch. The other, sponsored by Chandler Loupe and Denise Amoroso, recommended offering the job to the airport’s existing interim director Mike Edwards, who had interviewed with the consultants and the search committee earlier this year but did not make the short list.
It is unclear whether the council will take up the measure on Edwards at the Oct. 10 meeting or defer it while deciding whether to go in another director or reopen the search process.
Freiberg, who pushed for the national search in 2017, could not be reached for comment this morning. Hudson, who was supporting Futch, says he’s disappointed.
“But I can’t say that I blame him for becoming frustrated with the process,” he says.