Airport commission to choose new manager
Just before press time last night, The Times learned that the Martha's Vineyard Airport Commission had selected Sean Flynn, assistant airport manager, to be the new airport manager.
On their initial vote the commission split, with four members in favor of Mr. Flynn and three for Timothy Bradshaw. With the exception of T.J. Hegarty, who stormed out of the room, the commissioners then agreed as one to back Mr. Flynn with a solid vote in favor of his selection.
The Martha's Vineyard airport commission last night was poised to hire a new airport manager to manage the Island's aviation gateway. The commissioners were expected to choose from a group of five finalists but could delay a final choice and pick two semi-finalists, according to one airport official.
Four of the finalists to be considered have extensive professional aviation backgrounds and were selected by Bennett Yarger Associates of Scituate, a consulting firm paid $13,500 plus expenses to conduct a search to replace Bill Weibrecht, the highly respected airport manager who quit more than six months ago after a long-running dispute with Dukes County officials over his contract.
The list of applicants to be considered by the county-appointed airport commissioners also included Sean Flynn, Martha's Vineyard Airport assistant manager and acting airport manager for the last six months.
The willingness of the commission to consider Mr. Flynn, who by many accounts has done a good job, sparked an angry e-mail from T.J. Hegarty of West Tisbury, airport commissioner and county rodent control officer, to Jack Law, airport commission chairman and board members.
Mr. Hegarty, who has clashed with Mr. Law and airport employees in the past, accused Mr. Law of trying to influence the airport board's decision, and acting improperly.
Mr. Law said that Mr. Hegarty's e-mail was "way off base," and that the board's consideration of Mr. Flynn is perfectly appropriate and legal. "The commission wanted Mr. Flynn to be considered because at least some of us felt that he was qualified," said Mr. Law. "Personally, I like to support Island candidates if they are available and can do the job. Sean is doing the job right now, and I think he is doing a good job."
Asked why he would not want to hire another, more experienced outside professional to take the manager's position and keep Mr. Flynn as the assistant manager, Mr. Law said that he believes Mr. Flynn is the most likely candidate to stay in the position on a long-term basis.
"In this particular instance, the other candidates are all in their late 30s or early 40s, and I don't think this would be their only job," he said. "The off-Island candidates are also concerned about the cost of living and the cost of housing here. With Sean, we have somebody that is already part of the community."
The advertised position pays between $81,000 and $95,000 per year depending on qualifications.
The five finalists
The airport commissioners interviewed each of the five candidates at a marathon meeting on Saturday. The board members took no action and did not say which candidates they supported.
Timothy Bradshaw, from Owensboro, Ky., has worked in the aviation industry for the last 20 years. Since 1998, Mr. Bradshaw has worked as the airport manager of Owensboro Daviess County Regional Airport, in Owensboro, Ky.
He has a Masters degree in public administration from Western Kentucky University.
In his cover letter, Mr. Bradshaw highlighted his experience and professional background. He wrote, "Managing an airport is often very complicated and requires the ability to handle multiple tasks. It also requires someone who has a broad working knowledge of several different disciplines such as marketing, construction and engineering, emergency services, property management, human resources, finance, maintenance and planning."
Sean Flynn, Martha's Vineyard airport assistant manager and acting airport manager, has the home court advantage, but also has the least experience out of the candidates.
Mr. Flynn has a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice supervision and management from Northeastern University and a commercial pilot's license.
Mr. Flynn began working at the airport in 1993 as the security coordinator. In 2000 he was hired as the assistant airport manager, and in May of this year, he was appointed the acting airport manager.
In his application for the job Mr. Flynn wrote, "I am uniquely positioned to provide continuity and institutional knowledge to have an immediate positive impact on this great community asset."
Robert Nicholas, from Ithaca, N.Y., has extensive experience in several areas of the aviation industry. He has been airport director at Ithaca Regional Airport since 1989.
Mr. Nicholas is certified in training courses from British Airways Training Center in London, and completed the Federal Aviation Administration dispatchers course at California Airlines Institute.
Among his other positions, Mr. Nicholas is currently the chairman of the Aviation Technical Committee of New York's Southern Tier, a board member and past president of the New York Aviation Management Association.
Kenneth Whittaker, of Kingwood, Texas, has worked in the aviation industry for more than 20 years. mostly with airport management and planning.
Mr. Whittaker has worked as airport security coordinator in the Houston Airport system and is currently the airport operations superintendent at Bush International Airport, in Houston, Texas.
Christopher Willenborg, of Southwick, has worked at various airports in the northeast since 1992. For the last six years he has worked as the airport manager at the Westfield-Barnes Airport, in Westfield.
Mr. Willenborg has a Bachelor of Science degree in aviation business administration from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Mr. Willenborg is a past president of the Massachusetts Airport Management Association.
The airport commission began looking for a new airport manager when Mr. Weibrecht resigned after five years on the job. Mr. Weibrecht, who has been widely regarded by state and federal aviation officials as one of New England's top professional airport managers, left the airport on May 20 out of what he described as his frustration with the Dukes County commissioners who blocked him from receiving his contractually agreed upon salary of $86,000.
The county manager, with the support of the county commissioners, had refused to pay Mr. Weibrecht and Sean Flynn, assistant airport manager, the salaries they agreed to in contacts negotiated and signed with the county-appointed airport commission in March 2002.
The airport commission members at the time insisted that they had the statutory authority to negotiate and set airport management salaries. The county commissioners maintained that the men were county employees and must conform to county payroll procedures. The dispute ultimately went to court, and in a ruling issued last July, a Superior Court judge rejected each of the county's arguments and affirmed the statutory authority of the airport commission, over airport affairs.
It is an expensive legal lesson for county officials, one that will be paid for by county taxpayers who must foot the bill, which, when combined with back wages, triple damages, and legal fees for all concerned, comes to $871,000. The county has filed a motion to amend the award of triple damages, and is currently waiting for a ruling from the judge on the motion.