Airport commission names Geoffrey Freeman assistant airport manager

The move is the latest in a series of personnel changes as the commission moves to remake the airport management team.

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A paint crew spruces up the front of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport terminal last Friday. – Photo by Nelson Sigelman

The Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission met Thursday and promoted Geoffrey Freeman to the position of assistant airport manager. Mr. Freeman is currently the lead supervisor of airport operations, and has been acting assistant manager since March 18.

The commission vote follows the selection on April 4 of 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. She is expected to begin work on May 6.

The airport commission consulted with the search firm that assisted with the selection of Ms. Crook, and narrowed the applicant field down to three on-Island and two off-Island candidates. After interviews, “it was the unanimous decision that the clear choice was Geoff Freeman,” commission vice chairman Robert Rosenbaum said Thursday. He said the promotion received a “universal endorsement” from all parties, including Ms. Crook.

Mr. Freeman has been working in the aviation business for more than 25 years. He started at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport as a seasonal employee in 1994, and moved to full-time airport operations in 1995, up to operations supervisor in 2001, and lead supervisor in 2012.

“All of my interactions with Geoff over the years have been wonderful,” Mr. Rosenbaum said. “I have the utmost respect for him, and I would say that respect is carried forward among all the airport employees, as well as the community in general.”

Interim airport manager Rod Dinger, who was called in from California to oversee the airport from March until May, also endorsed Mr. Freeman.

“I’d just like to add that during my time here, since March 4, how valuable Geoff has been to my success and the success of this airport and the community,” he said. “He has stepped up, and we’ve had a lot of transition and challenges at the airport in the past five weeks that I’ve been here, and I think this is a great move. He’s very deserving.”

Following the meeting, Mr. Freeman said his goal is to create an open atmosphere at the airport and work together with the employees, airport users, and the community.

“I just appreciate the confidence they have in me, and I’m looking forward to continuing to grow as an employee and to grow the airport,” he said. “There’s a lot of potential.”

Mr. Freeman moves into his new role on the basis of a promotion, not a contract. He will receive $95,000 annually, five weeks of vacation, and access to the airport car.

The airport commission expects to wrap up negotiations for a three-year contract with Ms. Crook soon, while other personnel changes are in the works as well. Kim Elias, administrative assistant, has resigned, and fixed base operations administrator Philippa Rollins has stepped up to take on those duties. Financial manager Joan Shemit will help with payroll and human resources responsibilities, and is studying to be a procurement officer.

“These people are stepping up,” Mr. Dinger said. “We’re doing a lot with less right now.” He said the upcoming influx of seasonal employees will relieve some of the current burden on the staff until Ms. Crook can address vacancies as necessary.

Audit recommendations

Also Thursday, Mr. Rosenbaum announced the results of a recent airport audit by Powers & Sullivan, certified public accountants. Mr. Rosenbaum said audit recommendations included the airport update the “rather archaic, complicated, and unnecessarily involved” program software; standardize financial policies and procedures, including correcting errors in accounting for vacation, sick, and earned time; update the paid parking system; implement an electronic check scan; and streamline the payroll system, including an electronic time clock and updated payroll software.

“We’re still going through all the results of that,” Mr. Rosenbaum said.

Some of the audit recommendations are already being addressed, he said.

Currently, the airport uses an honor system of sorts to collect parking lot fees. Patrons are asked to calculate their own charge based on posted rates, and place the necessary money in a lock box. Airport staff inspects the lot daily, records license plate information, and when necessary, places envelopes on the cars to assist users.

A request for proposals for a new paid parking system has been sent out, Mr. Dinger said. The system would rely on an ATM-like kiosk in the terminal building, which would allow patrons to walk in, record the space number he or she parked in, enter the number of days the vehicle will be parked, and pay with a credit card. The kiosk vendor will be in charge of recording who has and has not paid for parking.

“It’s a stress on our staff who — the same ops who are refueling, who are op trained and doing facility maintenance, landscaping, and janitorial — are also going out into the parking lots,” Mr. Dinger said. “This will relieve them from that, and we’ll also have a better recovery rate when it’s all said and done.”

Mr. Dinger said airport management has almost completed a request to implement a passenger facility charge (PFC) program at the airport. Passengers now pay the $4.50 charge, but because the Martha’s Vineyard Airport is not a part of the program, the sending and receiving airports — such as Boston, Nantucket, and Atlanta — collect the fee. Mr. Dinger said he expects the PFC will generate around $200,000 in annual revenue that can be put toward capital improvement projects.

One capital improvement project currently in the works is the aircraft rescue, firefighting, and snow-removal equipment building, which has been sent out to bid. Pending the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval, the job will likely be awarded in May, authorized by late August, and started in the fall.

Commission chairman Myron Garfinkle said efforts to fix and paint the exterior terminal at the airport have been initiated, at a cost of $72,000. They are also looking to replace airport signs. “We’re determined to not be the airport without a sign anymore,” he said.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Mr. Dinger said he was excited about the direction the airport is headed.

“I’m excited for you, I’m excited for the airport, the airport staff, and the community as a whole,” he said. “I really can’t wait to come back in the future and see how everything has continued to grow.”