Martha’s Vineyard Airport commissioners decided to change Ann Richart’s title of airport manager to airport director at a meeting Thursday.
Along with the title change, continuation of an $1,100-per-month housing stipend from May 6, 2018, to May 5, 2019, and a 5 percent salary increase from $158,952.25 to $166,899.86 were elements of the three-part recommendation. Commissioner and chair of the personnel subcommittee Don Ogilvie said he has met extensively with the rest of the subcommittee and reviewed Richart’s performance reports and her salary. “This is very exciting for Ann,” Ogilvie said.
Commissioner Trip Barnes said he didn’t understand why it is necessary to change Richart’s title. Commissioner Richard Michelson explained that according to Richart, a lot of people that have her same job responsibilities have had their titles changed to director, and that the original title of manager may be “passé.”
Commissioner Kristin Zern agreed that a large part of the title is semantics and doesn’t change her position whatsoever. Marni Lipke, recording secretary, chimed in to explain that the title of manager is now considered “a sort of second in command, and not the CEO.”
Chairman Robert Rosenbaum said it “doesn’t have much substantial impact one way or another,” and he didn’t see any reason why the commission shouldn’t approve.
Barnes reiterated his reluctance, saying, “So we are giving her $1,100 on top of her salary? That’s pretty generous.”
Michelson commended Richart for her work in providing valuable connections to the airport and getting grants, but said he has not seen a significant improvement in personnel issues such as meeting with employees and bettering internal relations. “This is what we are paying her for,” Michelson said. “She has not met goals from last year … A year ago we were almost in the same place.” Michelson suggested tabling the deliberation until the next meeting.
Rosenbaum responded, saying that these changes are already long overdue. “I don’t see any point to put this off any longer, we have not paid her a housing stipend, we have not given her a raise,” Rosenbaum said. Ultimately, the move to table the discussion failed in a 4-3 vote. All three items contained in the recommendation were then approved, with one nay from Michelson and one abstention from Barnes.
In other business, Zern said she has been working with the outreach subcommittee to create an educational program that provides opportunities for kids and adults in different elements of airport operation. “This program would be for anyone looking to make a career change on-Island,” Zern said. “The aviation industry is looking at a huge impact over the next 10 years.” She said that many administrators and workers in the industry will be retiring, leaving significant gaps to be filled. “The number of jobs is incredible,” Zern said. She referenced a statistic from Boeing, stating that in North America alone, a total of 569,000 airport-related jobs will open up in the 10-year span.
Zern suggested getting local schools more actively involved in airport operation. “When we did our program at the high school, a 15-year-old came up to me and said he wanted to be an aerospace engineer,” Zern said. “Who knew some young kid was already looking to go in that direction?”
She said the Federal Aviation Administration and MassDOT are working hard to provide funding for educational programs like this.
Assistant airport manager Geoffrey Freeman said there is a high school student who recently started working at the airport. The student, according to Freeman, will be interning in the off-season, with aspirations to become an aviation mechanic. “He won’t just be parking planes, we’ll be giving him a view of all aspects of the airport. He’ll be meeting mechanics and following work crews around,” Freeman said.
Matthew O’Brien of McFarland and Johnson told commissioners that runway 6-24, the airport’s main runway, will be closed starting in February, and will remain closed through June. O’Brien explained that once October rolls around, it will be too cold to pave. “The critical factor here is temperature. We are going to open up the runway before airlines are landing,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said once runway construction starts, the entire runway will be shut down and ripped up. Commissioner Richard Knabel suggested there could be more opportunity for work in the fall because of the prolonged fall season and delayed winter. “October is a little early for the asphalt plant to shut down around here,” Knabel said. “On the other hand, it may not open up in April as early as you think.”
Rosenbaum said the problem with starting construction in October is that the runway would be shut down indefinitely until the project is completed.
One central goal for the airport, according to Freeman, is to keep the runway open through Thanksgiving and on into Christmas. “This is starting to become a more active airport; we are still very busy for events like Christmas in Edgartown,” Freeman said.
He added that it would not be cost-effective to mobilize and demobilize construction crews more than once.