The Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission Monday selected Ann Crook, currently director of aviation at the Elmira Corning Regional Airport in New York, to be the new manager of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. Her selection followed a full day of interviews with the three finalists conducted at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown.
Ms. Crook accepted the position Monday evening, and is expected to begin work on May 2.
Ms. Crook has more than 25 years of experience managing airports. She previously managed Klamath Falls Airport in Oregon; was director of the Oregon Department of Aviation; was state airports manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation; managed Hutchinson Municipal Airport in Kansas; and was airport operations manager of the Eugene Airport in Oregon. She also assisted with operations at two small airlines in Alaska early in her career.
“I’ve got a lot of experience in all different facets of this industry, and in locations all over the country,” Ms. Crook said in her interview Monday. “If you need someone to grow a commercial air service, I can do that. If you need someone with experience in general aviation, I can definitely do that.”
She said her speciality and love is managing small airports, described herself as a “throw it at me” kind of person, and emphasized the importance of the staff working together as a team. She said that passenger volume at the Elmira Corning Airport doubled during her tenure. “I like being involved in everything that happens at the airport,” she said. “Particularly at small airports, there are special needs.”
Ms. Crook named her immediate goals for the airport, which included getting to know the staff and addressing staff vacancies; seeing through construction projects now in the pipeline; addressing cosmetic and infrastructure problems with the airport and terminal; and building a transparent relationship with the community.
“I want the whole community to feel the enthusiasm of, yeah, cool stuff is happening at the airport,” she said.
She added that it’s often little changes that can make a big difference in the passenger experience. She said more could be done on the general aviation side to make the airport into “a premier facility.”
Ms. Crook said her main concern was the ongoing turmoil that the airport had experienced in recent years — which included lawsuits, staff turnover, and an FAA investigation — but said she was confident that she could make a positive impact.
At the conclusion of her interview, Ms. Crook said she felt “invigorated” by the prospect of making changes at the airport, such as new signs, repainting the front of the building, improving the bathroom facilities, and landscaping more around the business park.
“The airport needs some work,” she said. “After my tour yesterday I was kind of invigorated … because I can come in and make some astounding changes right away.”
Ms. Crook said she intends to stay at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport for the remainder of her career.
Also interviewed on Monday were Clarence “Bill” McKown Jr., a retired U.S. Navy captain and former manager of Terre Haute International Airport in Indiana, and Betty Stansbury, current airport director of Purdue University Airport in Indiana.
The search began with a pool of 37 candidates. On Monday, each interview lasted about one hour. The candidates fielded identical questions from each of the commissioners. At the end of the process, the commission agreed to a straw poll, and each commissioner selected his or her top two candidates on a ballot. Six were in favor of Ms. Crook, and one chose Ms. Stansbury. In the official vote, the commission unanimously voted for Ms. Crook.
Monday afternoon, airport commission vice chairman Robert Rosenbaum said that despite the competitive field, Ms. Crook’s hands-on approach and energy stood out.
“I think both Betty and Ann had a very strong understanding of our airport in particular — they had done their homework — and they were both very aware of the positives and the challenges that the airport has,” he said. “There was a little more energy that Ann had, and a hands-on type of attitude, plus her breadth of experience.”
In an email to The Times Tuesday, Ms. Crook said that although she does not have any direct connections to the Island, her sister recently retired from her position as a science teacher at Phillips Academy in Andover. Additionally, her parents retired to an island off the coast of Washington, so she is familiar with island life.
“I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and have always loved the beach,” she said. “On a personal note, I’m looking forward to playing on the beach with my boxer, Aero, and flying kites.”
She’s already forming her professional goals as well.
“More professionally, I’m looking forward to holding events to bring the community to the airport and to making the airport an exceptional welcome mat to all the unique beauty of Martha’s Vineyard,” she said.
And she joked about the snowy mix of weather that occurred during her visit to the Island: “This week I’ve been accused of bringing Upstate New York weather with me,” she said. “I’ll do my best to leave that behind when I return in a few weeks!”
The hiring of a new airport manager begins a new chapter in the often tumultuous history of the state’s only county-owned airport, which has included a series of lawsuits between the Dukes County Commission and the airport commission over control of the airport. The county commissioners are responsible for appointing the members of the airport commission, which is statutorily responsible for the airport.
Last August, a newly reconstituted airport commission placed former airport manager Sean Flynn on administrative leave, citing a number of airport deficiencies. Mr. Flynn was then at the start of a new three-year contract.
A series of meetings, mediation sessions, and legal threats ended with a negotiated settlement and Mr. Flynn resigning from his post in December.
The airport commission named assistant manager Deborah Potter acting manager. At the same time, the commission hired ADK Consulting and Executive Search, a Florida-based company that specializes in aviation, to assist in the search for a new airport manager.
According to Mr. Rosenbaum, the total costs of the hiring process are upwards of $35,000, which included $30,000 for the consulting firm, $1,000 for the Harbor View conference room, and about $3,360 to host the candidates and search firm representative at the hotel.