September 18, 2010 by staff 

Tia, The four men competing to be the next executive director of Tampa International Airport disagree on some things. On the one hand, all as the airport.

“It’s a world class facility, you are a leader”, said Kent George, which runs from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

“A number of excellent customer service that I envied,” said Lester Robinson, former head of Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

But also unanimously identify a well-publicized weakness: recruiting airlines to start new routes, particularly international destinations.

On Wednesday, the press has a window into the thinking of four finalists for the top job of the TIA and at least one person who will make the choice. It is true that it was a little window.

The candidates began the first of two days of one-on-one interviews with members of the Board of Hillsborough County Aviation Authority. Only Steven Burton, a board member insisted that his interrogation would take place with the press present.

The doors closed when the authority of the President Austin conducted the interview. Three other members, including Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, test candidates today.

Iorio proposed that the Board also asked the finalists in a public meeting. It circulated a note Wednesday that the chief of executive of the airport, Michael Bell, SpencerStuart, advised the members to meet with candidates only in private.

The field includes two men who worked at airports for almost all of his adult life: George Kent and Kevin Dillon, chief executive of FT Green Airport Providence, RI

Robinson spent most of her career in accounting, finance and government. Joseph Lopano, executive vice president of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, he worked in various positions airline executive before joining the airport.

So how will the board decide?

Reading Burton was not easy. He asked the candidates to walk through their professional background, with the names of supervisors and subordinates. They gave their professional accomplishments and explained their management styles. Here are their points of sale:

George, 63 years as head of the Pittsburgh airport, recruited discount carriers Southwest, AirTran and JetBlue Airways after the U.S. filed for bankruptcy and drastically reduce its huge hub. In Fort Lauderdale, helped set the international service of Spirit Airlines and Condor. “I can not do miracles,” said George. “The aviation authority can not work miracles if the community is behind you.”

Dillon, 54: He has extensive experience working with community and business groups in their efforts to expand the Providence airport runway and other facilities. “It is time for the airport (ask) how big the role it can play in the community,”he said.

Robinson, 58 years: Promote efforts to improve customer service at Detroit Metro previously miserable. Won first place among large airports in customer satisfaction this year JD Power and Associates survey. “Probably we will have to aim at being a hub for a low cost airline … that could have destinations in the Caribbean,”he said of winning new international flights.

Lopano, 55: The runner-up just to run an airport, Lopano worked for years at Continental Airlines and other airlines. It is also the only one who has sat on the side of the airlines in negotiations on new air routes. “The apartment is clean (TIAs) terminals wonderful,” he said. “If the grass is cut and everything looks clean, (people think) you have a good operation. You really have going on in that direction.”

The meeting is scheduled for an October 7 election to replace former executive director Louis Miller, who resigned six months ago. On Monday, he was appointed to run Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, the world’s busiest airport.

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