Possible Hartsfield-Jackson GM candidates revealed

By Ben Smith and Maria Saporta
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Two former Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport employees, a current general manager from Indianapolis and a former CEO of Detroit’s airport authority are said to be in the running for general manager of Atlanta’s airport, sources say.

They are John D. Clark III, Lester W. Robinson, Steven Baker and Miguel Southwell, according to three sources familiar with the search to replace former GM Benjamin DeCosta.

City and airport officials have not released any of the candidates’ names. None of the four applicants could be reached for comment.

Last week, Mayor Kasim Reed said the short-list had been narrowed to five candidates. Reed was scheduled to interview them Monday and is expected cut the list to three finalists by Friday. The mayor said he plans to name the Hartsfield-Jackson GM next week.

Clark is the current executive director and CEO of the Indianapolis Airport Authority, a job he’s held since March 2009. Clark previously headed airport operations in Jacksonville, Fla., first in 1996 as chief executive of the city’s airports and, in 2001, as CEO of the Jacksonville Airport Authority.

A 26-year veteran in the aviation industry, Clark has served as chairman of the Board of Airports Council International–North America.

Robinson served for 10 years as CEO of the Wayne County Airport Authority, which governs the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. In that role, Robinson oversaw the construction of a sixth runway. He is also given credit for a 388 percent skyrocketing in airport concession revenue.

The authority ousted Robinson in May in what critics contend was a politically motivated firing. According to published reports, board members praised Robinson and gave him a standing ovation during the same meeting they voted not to renew his contract.

Neither Southwell nor Baker have top management experience running an airport, but both have worked at Hartsfield-Jackson. Southwell is currently deputy director of business retention and development at Miami International Airport and five area general aviation airports. Before that, Southwell worked for 11 years at Hartsfield-Jackson in a variety of positions, including overseeing financial operations, concessions, ground transportation and public relations.

Baker has served as vice president of business administration for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority since December 2005. Previously he was a deputy general manager at Hartsfield-Jackson.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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