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Manchester hires Theodore Kitchens to run its airport for $203,513 a year

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 15. 2018 10:55AM
A passenger makes her way through Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — City aldermen voted Tuesday to confirm Mayor Joyce Craig’s pick to become the new chief executive of the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, and while their final vote reflects unified support for the choice, the opinions aired were anything but.

Board members voted 8-5 to approve Theodore “Ted” Kitchens, 45, as the next chief executive of Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. Supporting the nomination were Aldermen Kevin Cavanaugh, Will Stewart, Tim Baines, Chris Herbert, Bill Shea, John Cataldo, Bill Barry, and Keith Hirschmann. Opposed were Elizabeth Moreau, Dan O’Neil, Joe Kelly Levasseur, Tony Sapienza and Barbara Shaw. Ward 11 Alderman Normand Gamache was absent. Following the vote, Levasseur moved to make the vote unanimous.

Last month, Craig nominated Kitchens, general manager of the George Bush Intercontinental Airport for the last three years, to take the reins of Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. Tom Malafronte has been serving as acting airport director since March 1, when former director Mark Brewer retired after a decade on the job.

A Baltimore, Md., native, Kitchens has also held leadership roles at airports in Atlanta and Newport News, Va.

In announcing her choice, Craig said the field of 29 applicants was impressive, but Kitchens stood out and was the unanimous pick of a six-person, national search committee she formed.

“I’m pleased the Board of Mayor and Aldermen confirmed Ted Kitchens as the new airport director,” said Craig. “Mr. Kitchens’ knowledge of the industry, his approach to air service and commitment to engaging with the community proves he is the most qualified person to lead one of the most important economic engines in the state. I thank the aldermen for seeing the vast experience Mr. Kitchens will bring to MHT, and for approving his nomination in a timely manner.”

“I am honored to be confirmed as the next leader of the terrific team at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport,” said Kitchens in a statement. “I would like to thank the Board of Mayor and Aldermen for their support and for placing their trust in my leadership. I look forward to meeting the MHT team members, our airline partners, the general aviation community, and engaging with the local business and community leaders.”

A national firm that specializes in aviation and aerospace management job searches, ADK, was paid $36,900 to assist in the recruitment of Kitchens, a cost the airport picked up within its budget, officials said.

Shortly after Kitchens’ nomination was announced, several aldermen privately questioned the makeup of the selection committee, and why no members of the board were included on it.

Craig’s selection committee consisted of Patrick Duffy, former chairman of the Manchester Airport Authority, Liz Hitchcock, Dave Allen, Connie Roy-Czyzowski, and John Farrell.

Duffy penned an op-ed piece on behalf of the committee that appeared in Monday’s edition of the New Hampshire Union Leader, which urged aldermen to support Kitchens’ nomination.

“Working together with our dedicated airport employees, we believe Kitchens will bring the expertise, ability, and vision to transform the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport into a thriving asset for our city and our region,” wrote Duffy.

On Monday Richard Fixler, assistant airport director for engineering and planning at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, sent an email to aldermen questioning the resumes of some on the selection committee.

“It was unfortunate that the mayor chose not to include any aviation/airport experts on her panel, although numerous qualified people volunteered,” wrote Fixler. “I urge you to cast your vote with the best interests of your constituents and the citizens of the state of NH in mind, and not based on loyalties to a mayor who was poorly advised by a committee with no relevant knowledge of how an airport is operated or how airlines determine where to provide service.”

Prior to the vote, Alderman Hirschmann said he was impressed by Kitchens during a meeting the two had.

“We talked about the future of the airport, what the airport can be,” said Hirschmann. “There are so many things we can look forward to and can do better.”

“Nothing against the person serving there now, but I do think the presence of a new director at the airport would be beneficial to the city,” said Alderman Shea.

“After all the reading I’ve done, talking to people in the industry, I personally think the best candidate is one of our own — Tom Malafronte,” said O’Neil.

“The airport to me is thriving right now,” said Shaw. “That is something I don’t want to see interrupted. I am not going to vote for this new person from somewhere else.”

“The fact that he changed jobs three times in nine years is a red flag for me,” said Levasseur. “This doesn’t send a good message to anyone else looking to move up in the city departments.

Kitchens’ starting salary as airport director will be $203,513 annually. Kitchens will assume the role of airport director on Oct. 1.

At the time of his departure, Brewer was paid $233,000, which was the top salary for any public official in the city.

After 12 straight years of year-over-year passenger declines, Manchester-Boston Regional Airport saw its passenger numbers rise over the first four months of 2018.

But the airport’s largest airline, Southwest, handled 15.6 percent fewer passengers this June than it did in June 2017.

Seventy Manchester flights, a combination of arrivals and departures, were canceled in June, including 20 involving Southwest flights, due to weather and air-traffic delays across the system, Malafronte said.

General News Manchester


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