Against a backdrop of a pending land deal with aerospace giant Boeing, local attorney Andy Savage pledged a new era of openness after being unanimously elected chairman of Charleston County Aviation Authority Thursday.
“We are going to open this up, and the sun is going to shine on this room,” said Savage, a former Charleston County councilman. “There aren’t going to be any midnight phone calls anymore.”
Savage replaced Rep. Chip Limehouse, who stepped down as chairman after nearly 21/2 years to focus on his bid for the 1st Congressional District seat vacated by Rep. Tim Scott.
Limehouse, a Charleston Republican, remains on the board as chairman of the Charleston County legislative delegation, but he appointed retired Maj. Gen. Jim Livingston, a Vietnam War Medal of Honor recipient, as his proxy on the 13-member board while he campaigns.
“I am humbled and honored to be affiliated with this great group,” Livingston said.
One of Savage’s first orders of more openness came when it was time to go into a closed-door meeting to discuss the land deal with Boeing.
In the past, a blanket agenda item covered everything allowed under the Freedom of Information Act to be discussed behind closed doors. On Thursday, the agenda was specific and referred to the contract negotiations with Boeing over the price of the more than 800 acres it hopes to buy at Charleston International Airport across from its 265-acre leased campus site.
After the meeting, board members lined up behind Savage, lauding the new policy of openness and better flow of information among the board, staff members and the public.
“This is not some cloak and dagger board,” said County Council Vice Chairman Elliott Summey, who was sitting in for his father, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey. “Anytime we have transparency, it’s a wonderful thing. The biggest economic incubator here is Charleston County Aviation Authority.”
Board member Michael Stavrinakis agreed.
“There were a lot of backroom meetings that I was not invited to,” he said. “It’s a new day.”
County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor called it long overdue.
“It’s a healthy step,” former judge Larry Richter said. “All of our business should be done in an open fashion.”