Special Reports

Airport board selects interim executive director

Lexington's Blue Grass Airport board selected Eric J. Frankl, currently head of the Toledo, Ohio, airport, as interim executive director on Thursday.

The board, with seven members present, agreed on the selection unanimously at a special meeting.

Frankl, 44, will begin Feb. 16 at a salary of $3,700 a week, or more than $192,000 annually, and his employment as interim director could last up to a year.

Frankl is interested in becoming the airport's executive director on a permanent basis, but he will have to compete with others for the position. The airport board is planning a worldwide search to fill the position, board chairman J. Robert Owens said.

"Eric has a proven track record and I'm confident he will provide strong leadership in the transition," Owens said. "He fully understands that, while he is welcome to apply, we will select the best person for the executive director position, whoever that may be."

The new interim executive director is now director of airports for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, which includes Toledo Express, where 130,000 passengers boarded commercial planes last year, and Metcalf Field, a large cargo operation.

Frankl's salary as director of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority is $108,000 a year.

David Wescott, a spokesman for the airport, said that Frankl's salary is high because the board considered the fact that he was leaving a permanent position to accept an interim one.

Frankl said he sees his interim appointment as challenging, but a great opportunity.

"Our industry feels for this board and this community," he said, referring to an ongoing scandal that has led to the resignations of four top Blue Grass Airport officials in the past month, an audit by the state auditor's office and a criminal investigation.

Frankl said he called Blue Grass Airport officials to offer support and advice after the scandal broke, and "one thing turned into another."

As interim executive director, Frankl will not be getting the perks that Michael Gobb received as executive director before he resigned from his position amid questions about his spending of airport money. Unlike Gobb, Frankl will not have an airport vehicle, or a cell phone and club memberships paid for by the airport.

Frankl's pay will be significantly less than the nearly $220,000 a year that Gobb was making. Frankl said if he is chosen as the airport's executive director, he expects that his salary would be even less than what he will be paid as interim executive director.

Frankl said his first priority is to rebuild the trust between airport staff and management, airport management and the airport board, and the airport and the community.

"I'm excited," he said of the temporary position. He said he met a lot of Blue Grass Airport's rank-and-file employees on Thursday.

Frankl will be traveling back to Ohio at least once a week after he starts working in Lexington because he is teaching a course in aviation management and operations at Bowling Green State University during the spring semester.

Frankl's wife, Linda Frankl, is director of strategy and organizational effectiveness for the Columbus Regional Airport Authority. The Frankls have two teenage sons.

Alfred Testa Jr., who has been Blue Grass Airport's acting director since early January, will remain at the Lexington airport full time at least until Feb. 16, and then will work as a consultant to the airport. Testa was brought to Blue Grass Airport by Jacobs Consultancy, which the airport board hired to help with restructuring airport management and policies and procedures.

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