Mayor Reed seeks appointment power to the Montgomery Airport Authority

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 5:28 AM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed says that the Montgomery Regional Airport is failing to meet its potential without better oversight.

Reed says leadership changes at the airport are needed to help launch the facility into the 21st Century. Still, members of the Airport Authority say things are running smoothly as is and there isn’t a need to try to fix what’s already working.

“The current makeup of the board of directors could be improved,” Reed said. “We have to make sure that there are those that are interested in the growth more so than the control, and right now, I’m not sure that’s the case with everyone that’s on the board.”

The Montgomery Airport Authority is a board that consists of nine members appointed by their respective city council members:

  • Robert Gould - Chairmen (Appointed by District 1 City Council seat)
  • Jerry Kyser - (Appointed by District 2 City Council seat)
  • Sandra Nickel - (Appointed by District 3 City Council seat)
  • Deborah Nickson - (Appointed by District 4 City Council seat)
  • Tammy Knight-Fleming - (Appointed by District 5 City Council seat)
  • Chester Mallory - (Appointed by District 6 City Council seat)
  • Barrie Harmon - (Appointed by District 7 City Council seat)
  • Conwell Hooper - (Appointed by District 8 City Council seat)
  • Joe Greene - (Appointed by District 9 City Council seat)

Governed by local law, Reed cannot appoint board members, unlike mayors in other large cities like Birmingham, Mobile, Huntsville and Tuscaloosa. Reed says he wants appointment power alongside city council members.

“As the mayor of the city, I think that it is irregular not to have some sort of input,” Reed said.

Reed says the local law in place now is preventing his ability to help appoint new members, who he says would bring fresh, new and innovative ideas.

“We have to be willing to think at a much larger scale of what the airport can be and not what it is, and not be so concerned over who controls it that we sacrifice the growth of the airport because of that,” Reed said.

Reed’s concerns go beyond just leadership, though. He cited an inspection of the airport this Summer that found several potential FAA violations related to safety procedures and maintenance. Some of the violations included the failure to document regular self-inspections and the need for the airport’s safety personnel to have better training.

There was a list of other issues cited, too, like metal rods protruding from the ground next to one of the runways, runway lines not being properly maintained, and the need for an updated airport emergency plan.

Another concern by both the city and the mayor is that some board members have been re-appointed to serve multiple terms, and some members have been on the board for over 10 years.

“We have had business leaders bring up issues they have had with the airport in recent years, and minority participation has been a point of contention,” Reed said. “Along with some things that I have been told by some current members of the airport board as well that are not public at this time.”

“We don’t have an agenda out here. We’re out here running the airport for the benefit of this city,” said Barrie Harmon, a three-year board member with the Airport Authority.

Harmon was the sole member of the board who would go on record with WSFA to discuss the mayor’s concerns. He said he has no objection to appointing new members to the board after their two-year term is up.

“You have to be rotated on and off by reappointment, so you’re not stuck for life. If somebody appoints you for 25 years, you must be doing a good job,” Harmon said.

Harmon added that it doesn’t surprise him that the mayor doesn’t have any oversight over the airport.

“We are an independent authority. We are appointed by each member of the city council, which gives us broad-based representation, and that has worked historically since 1945,” Harmon said.

Regarding the potential FAA violations, Harmon said they have since been addressed.

“They found some discrepancies which we have addressed to their satisfaction. This is routine,” Harmon said.

Harmon also said members of the board are not compensated for their time, and they volunteer their time to serve on the board. He said, “out of the goodness of their heart.”

Overall, Harmon said their job is to create a policy that the airport’s Executive Director ultimately carries out.

Ultimately, Mayor Reed said if he doesn’t start seeing changes at the airport, he will work with local legislators to adjust how appointments can be made to the airport board.

“What we propose is that if we cannot correct this, under the current construct, then we change it,” Reed said. “And we go to the legislature and we seek their support and we make our case for why we believe it needs to be changed.”

The board said they are in the process of looking for a new Executive Director. The former Airport Director, Marshall Taggart Jr., resigned in May, and he was replaced by acting director Willie Carter Jr.

Over the past two years, the airport has made some small upgrades to parking and other amenities. In November 2020, they announced a 20-year plan for the future of the airport.

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