The search for the next Wilmington International Airport manager has begun.
The seven members of the New Hanover County Airport Authority voted unanimously on June 8 to withdraw from the employment contract of then airport manager Julie Wilsey. Since then, the airport authority has formed a search committee and is preparing to sign a contract with a national research firm to help it find a new leader.
Gary Broughton, who was previously deputy airport manager, is currently the interim manager of Wilmington International Airport, according to Donna Girardot, president of the airport authority and designated spokesperson for the group.
Following the authority’s vote to withdraw from his employment contract, Wilsey was given 30 days’ notice before his employment at the airport ended. Wilsey’s last day will be July 9, according to Girardot.
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Broughton will then become the interim manager of the airport. He was originally scheduled to retire on September 1, but will now stay until the end of the year.
“He postponed his retirement to help us get through this period of transition,” Girardot said.
As to Wilsey’s current capacity until July 9, Girardot said “I really can’t answer.”
The authority seeks to ADK consulting and executive search to help find the next director. Although a contract is still being finalized, Girardot said it expects the airport authority to consider and sign a contract with the company at its July 7 meeting.
The airport authority chose to bring in a search agency because they want to fill the position quickly to allow the new director to lead the airport’s ongoing expansion project and oversee a wave of post-pandemic travel.
“With the terminal’s expansion and the post-pandemic increase in air travel, speed is really of paramount importance at this point,” Girardot said. “They give us the opportunity to speed up this process.”
Missions of the new director
The new director will be responsible for overseeing the airport’s $ 60 million terminal expansion project. The terminal project started in 2018 and has been divided into three phases. The project, now in its third phase, is expected to end in 2022.
The renovation will add 60,000 square feet to the terminal and will include repairs and a roof replacement. The additional space will be used for more door seating, a larger TSA checkpoint and retail.
The director should take over as travel rebounds. The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the number of passengers passing through Wilmington International. In May 2020, the airport handled a total of 14,348 passengers. A year later, the airport registered 78,875 passengers flights to and from Wilmington International – an increase of almost 450%. The number of passengers for May and June is close to that of 2019, depending on the airport.
While an exact timeline for hiring is still unclear, Girardot said she hopes to have a candidate selected by the fall.
“Hopefully we can have someone in place by October, maybe no later than November, so that there is a transition period with Gary Broughton before he retires,” she declared.
The five-member search committee will assess the top four or five candidates and make a recommendation to the airport authority. The authority will then select the new director.
Three current members and two former members of the airport authority make up the search committee. Members include Spruill Thompson, the committee chair, Tom Wolfe, Nick Rhodes, John Lennon and Carter Lambeth.
A job description provided to StarNews outlines the expectations of the new director, who is responsible for recruiting staff, preparing the airport’s budget and establishing safety rules and regulations, among other tasks.
Once a manager has been hired, the airport authority will work with them to hire an assistant manager to fill Broughton’s position.
“It will be a joint decision between the new director and the board at that time,” Girardot said.
Decision to terminate
Wilsey had been Director of Wilmington International since 2015. She began in this role following the retirement of Jon Rosborough. Prior to that, she was deputy director of the airport. Wilsey has worked at the airport since 1999.
A 2018 amendment to Wilsey’s original employment contract extended his contract until April 30, 2023 and increased his annual base salary from $ 167,000 to $ 210,000.
The involuntary termination by the airport authority requires the airport to pay severance pay equal to Wilsey’s base salary and benefits over a period of one year, in accordance with a clause in Wilsey’s employment contract .
When asked why the airport authority decided to terminate Wilsey’s contract when the deputy airport manager was about to retire, Girardot did not elaborate.
“The board just voted unanimously to withdraw from Ms Wilsey’s employment contract,” she said, “and it was something that – by contract – we could do, we had the right to do. “
Journalist Emma Dill can be reached at 910-343-2096 or [email protected]