Six candidates with varying degrees of community involvement and knowledge pertinent to the the Airport Commission will compete for three vacant seats.
The candidates will be interviewed by the Dukes County Commission, which serves as the appointing body for both the Airport Commission and the Steamship Authority board.
Interviews will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 12, and again on Wednesday, Feb. 19.
The Airport Commission governs the one square mile of land upon which the Martha’s Vineyard Airport is situated, which includes the Airport Business Park. It also is responsible for hiring airport administration officials, such as the airport director and assistant director.
Along with orchestrating the hiring process, the commission also implements policy, and ensures compliance with Federal Aviation Administration guidelines.
The normally seven-member board has been slimmed down by two members, after Clarence (“Trip”) Barnes and Richard Michelson resigned before the end of their three-year terms, amid tensions involving the future of the airport.
Along with the two seats left vacant by Barnes and Michelson, commissioner Peter Wharton’s three-year term is up, and he has requested to be reappointed for another term.
Of the five new candidates, each has a depth of knowledge on various aspects of the Island community, differing degrees of business savvy, and experience in certain facets of aviation.
Richard Conrad wrote in his application for the volunteer position that he served on the airport advisory board at the Westchester County Airport in New York for six years.
He included that his main vocation is “business jet aircraft management and aircraft sales.”
“I understand how airports work, and how they are used. I understand the importance of a symbiotic relationship with the public, users of the airport, affected communities, and for the need for real estate development and income to the airport,” the application states.
Fred Fournier wrote in his application that his experience as founder and president of Landscope, Inc., a major landscaping company on the Vineyard, provides him with good interpersonal skills and a strong business acumen.
John Ensor wrote about his experience as president of the Overlea Homeowners Association in Maryland, and how it allowed him to receive community input and collaborate closely with members of the public. “Our homeowners association is located 13 miles from a major airport, BWI [Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport], so I am well acquainted with the issues of flight patterns and the impact on local communities,” Ensor wrote.
In Wharton’s request for reappointment, he noted his past membership on multiple subcommittees of the Airport Commission, and his current chairmanship of the land use subcommittee.
Not only has Wharton served in multiple capacities at the airport, but he continues to serve as the director of plant operations and environmental services at Windemere, has held several finance-oriented positions, and was a U.S. Navy officer for eight years (much of that experience having to do with aviation).
Robert Zeltzer is a former member of both the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and the County Commission. Zeltzer wrote in his application that he is interested in “preserving the character, economy, and environment of the Island for future generations.”
Geoffrey Wheeler has also served in multiple aviation-related positions throughout his professional career, including some essential functions at Martha’s Vineyard Airport. He has worked on the Airport Commission finance subcommittee and land use subcommittee for more than four years, and served as senior vice president for financial and business services at the largest privately owned global aviation consultancy firm in North America, according to his application.
Airport Commission chair Bob Rosenbaum told The Times he believes Wheeler to be the most qualified for the position, although he cannot provide his input on the process because it is entirely in the purview of the County Commission. “I think most of the other commissioners would agree,” Rosenbaum said.
Rosenbaum said Wheeler has applied to the Airport Commission three times already, but was not selected in any of those instances. “It’s kind of frustrating; Geoff obviously has a depth of understanding of aviation and aviation administration,” Rosenbaum said.
Rosenbaum said he wishes the County Commission would take more input from the Airport Commission during the selection of appointees, and encouraged Dukes County officials and prospective applicants to attend Airport Commission meetings regularly. “I really feel that it is important for candidates, and those selecting the appointees, to have a firm awareness of what the commission does, and what types of decisions are involved,” Rosenbaum said.
In addition to advocating for increased collaboration between the County Commission and the Airport Commission, Rosenbaum suggested creating an outside advisory board where members of the community can provide input on which candidates should be selected.
He said he approached County Commission chairman Tristan Israel about the Airport Commission providing input and feedback.
“We will see where that goes, but I hope that the three appointees work out well,” Rosenbaum said.