By Liz Segrist
Published Aug. 22, 2013
The Charleston County Aviation Authority voted 8-5 to hire Sen. Paul Campbell as its airports director during a heated board meeting Thursday.
Campbell will begin serving as director this Saturday with a salary of $192,000. He will serve until Aug. 23, 2016, according to a draft of his employment agreement. His position can be terminated if either he or the board gives 60 days notice in writing.
|Sen. Paul Campbell|
Board Chairman Andy Savage said the three-year contract was in reaction to Stevens’ resignation in an effort to provide stability to the board, the Charleston International Airport, Charleston Executive Airport on Johns Island and the Mount Pleasant Regional Airport.
In a 7-6 vote Thursday, the board denied motion to conduct a 30-day search and seek at least three candidates, including Campbell, to consider for the director’s job. The board then voted Campbell in as director following about an hour of questioning.
The majority of the board agreed that Campbell’s experience equipped him for the job, but some rejected his appointment since other candidates were not considered. There also was concern of whether Campbell could adequately serve as both the airports director and a state senator, since he has stated he would not step down from the Senate.
The S.C. Attorney General’s Office issued an opinion late last month saying a state lawmaker could also be airports director in Charleston.
“With Alcoa, I had plants in five different states. I took care of the budgets, personnel matters and capital spending,” Campbell said about his ability to balance being a senator and the airports director. “I am confident that I can do both jobs.”
Campbell fielded questions from board member Lawrence Richter Jr. on how he was contacted about the position, his ability to serve both positions and his political contributions from those doing business with the board.
“We have to make a decision,” Richter said. “If we’re making a full decision, the board should know all of the information.”
Board members Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and Mount Pleasant Mayor Billy Swails all spoke in support of Campbell’s ability to the lead the board, noting his time at Alcoa and as chair of the S.C. Manufacturers Alliance.
“We’re so lucky to have Sen. Campbell,” Riley said. “I’m very grateful that he’s willing to do the job.”
Swails said the board wouldn’t find a “more qualified guy to hit the ground running and do the job.”
Following Stevens’ resignation, Savage and Summey reached out to Campbell to gauge his interest in the position.
After a July meeting, Savage said he would negotiate a contract with Campbell for the board to consider at today’s meeting.
Also during the meeting, the board voted to increase interim director Bill New’s salary of $175,000 by 20.6%, to roughly $211,000, the same salary as the former director. Stevens will remain on paid leave through Sept. 30.
“I’m grateful that you all have given me this opportunity, and I’m very happy to take it,” Campbell said. “I’m looking forward to working with all of you on this well-run operation. I promise to do my best to keep it going that way.”