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Charleston airport authority executive director announces retirement

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Sen. Paul Campbell, who has led the Charleston County Aviation Authority for the past three years, announced plans Monday to retire from his post, effective Dec. 31, according to a news release.

CampbellCampbell’s contract ends in August, but he has agreed to stay on through the end of the year to see the $200 million renovation of Charleston International Airport completed. The airport board will have to vote on the next director.

During Campbell’s time at the helm of the authority, new flights came to Charleston International Airport and passenger counts grew year-over-year, surpassing 3.4 million passengers in 2015. The authority also owns and operates the Charleston Executive Airport on Johns Island and the Mount Pleasant Regional Airport.

Campbell was charged with keeping the Charleston airport running while undergoing a massive renovation project, which involved challenges such as finding and remediating asbestos during construction and ensuring passengers could get to their flights amid construction zones.

“I will eventually turn over to my successor a new, world-class Charleston International Airport facility that continues to set records for enplanements,” Campbell said in the release. “When fully complete in the coming weeks, we will deliver a passenger experience that the Charleston area residents and visitor alike will appreciate.”

Campbell was recruited to run the board after his predecessor, Sue Stevens, resigned in July 2013 after serving as the airport director for seven years.

Stevens left her post as the head of the formerly all-male board because of what she said was discrimination and unethical behavior by some board members when she refused to “play ball.” One year after resigning, Stevens agreed to a $270,000 settlement from the authority.

When Campbell was up for the job in August 2013, some board members questioned whether he could serve as both senator and airports director and asked for other candidates to be considered. Others praised his resume.

Campbell, a former Alcoa executive, said that he had experience running five plants in different states and being a state senator, and that he was confident he could run the airport as well.  He was voted in 8-5 by the board.

“I’m grateful that you all have given me this opportunity, and I’m very happy to take it,” Campbell said at the August 2013 board meeting. “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.”

Billy Swails, the Charleston County Aviation Authority’s chairman, said in the release: “Senator Campbell stepped up when his community called to oversee a complex construction project. He has provided excellent leadership during a critical time of transition while boarding a record number of passengers for each of the past three years.”

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119.

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