If ever there has been a board under public pressure, it’s the Shreveport Airport Authority.
Chair Waynette Ballengee, Mary Jackson, Jonathan Reynolds and Margaret Shehee how have a new compatriot. The Shreveport city council confirmed Shreveport mayor Adrian Perkin’s nomination of Oliver Jenkins at its Tuesday meeting.
Jenkins replaces vice chair Grant Nuckols who resigned. Word on the street is that Nuckols, a political ally of Perkins, will be named to the Port of Shreveport Bossier board.
James Pannell was removed by the council on Tuesday at the request of seven of the nine commissioners. Thus there is an empty seat to be filled by the city of Shreveport.
The woes of the airport board started last year with major discontent by the private aviation group of plane and hanger owners directed at then airport executive director Henry Thompson. After meeting with the new mayor Perkins in early January Thompson tendered his resignation.
Complaints have continued between the authority and the private aviation group. In fact they have increased and become more heated. Many in this group are considering moving their planes and hangers out of Shreveport.
Public records requests reveal that public airport funds have been doled out in recent years to Christmas in the Sky, The Robinson Film Center, Mudbug Madness, The Shreveport Symphony, The Red River Revel, the State Fair of Louisiana, Mudbug Hockey, and other entities/events including the Watermelon Festival. Many of these organizations/events are closely associated with two board members..
Many free tickets were provided in exchange for the airport sponsorships that exceeded over $116,000. The board minutes record no mention of how the sponsorships were decided and who received the free tickets. They do show that some board members were recipients.
To top if off, the board is now in the process of nominating a new airport director. They utilized the same head hunter firm that sent them Thompson. The consensus in the private aviation community is that Thompson was grossly unqualified for the position.
Jenkins is a retired United States Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel. He was a distinguished pilot during his career. He exudes the Marine motto "Semper Fidelis".
Jenkins served eight years on the Shreveport city council, ending his service in December of last year. During his time on the council, he had a well earned reputation of preparation, investigation, and leadership under both mayor Cedric Glover and Ollie Tyler.
In addition to his aviation and government service experience, Jenkins also have real world business expertise. He has successfully been in the oil and gas business for the last 10 years.
No doubt the good ole boy club atmosphere of the airport board will change radically at Jenkin’s first meeting. Fellow board member and airport staff had better be ready for a multitude of incisive questions and an insistence on documentation to support responses.
Jenkins will insist on following the rules and regulations and making sure that all details of board action will be well covered. And he will start with the support and respect of the mayor, the city council , the business community as well as the aviation community.
Earlier this year Perkins attempted to replace Ballengee and Shehee with individuals with first hand aviation knowledge. They refused to resign and they obtained an attorney general opinion saying that Perkins could not remove them.
The playing field on the airport board and at the airport authority has suddenly changed with the appointment of Jenkins. West Point graduate Perkins has learned battlefield strategy first hand.
He now has an ally on the airport board that was a key player in his campaign success last year.
The storm clouds continue to build up over the airport board that has, for the most part, escaped public scrutiny due to the social and business status of several board members. One can expect Jenkins, the former fighter pilot, to navigate through the turbulence bringing stability and good government practices to this board. Its long overdue.