Sen. Paul Campbell in the mix for airport director’s job

State Sen. Paul Campbell

The name of the first candidate to replace the outgoing director of Charleston County’s three airports surfaced Friday.

It’s retired Fortune 500 executive and state Sen. Paul Campbell.

Campbell said if asked, he would take the reins of the Charleston County Aviation Authority, stepping in after Executive Director Sue Stevens’ sudden resignation this week.

Campbell said he has talked to Aviation Authority Chairman Andy Savage about the post but isn’t sure what the authority’s board will do when it meets to discuss the vacancy next week.

“I would consider it an honor if they asked me to do it, and I would seriously consider the job,” he said. “I don’t want to go into a lot of specifics because I don’t know what is going to happen on Tuesday.”

Savage could not be reached Friday afternoon to comment on Campbell or any other potential candidates for the job.

Campbell, R-Goose Creek, has extensive business experience, having retired as a regional president of aluminum giant Alcoa, where he oversaw plants in several states, including its smelter near Goose Creek. He also has his own consulting business.

“I tend to go in where there are issues or problems and help them turn their problems around,” he said. “I work on motivation and I work on reliability, which is super important.”

Stevens announced her resignation this week. Savage said she told him durign a private two-hour meeting Tuesday that at least two members of authority board have been “verbally abusive” and “disrespectful” to her for an extended period.

Campbell said he knows all the members of the Aviation Authority board, and he also knows Stevens.

“She’s a really great person. I’m disappointed this has come about,” he said. “I don’t know any details associated with it.”

Stevens has hired an employment lawyer and is considering her legal options. Asked about that, Campbell said, “I understand you have to be very careful what you say as far as litigation goes. I hope there’s an amicable solution there so it doesn’t go to litigation.”

The airport is proposing to hire Summerville lawyer and state Rep. Jenny Horne to defend it, said Arnold Goodstein, general counsel for the Aviation Authority.

Still, Campbell said the airport’s staff is “very competent,” adding, “It’s not a broken situation.”

Stevens is scheduled to go on paid leave Monday and end her service on Sept. 30 after less than seven years in the $211,140-a-year job. She had planned to leave in 2015, after the Charleston International Airport terminal was overhauled.

Campbell said he remembers when the airport was a modest building on Aviation Avenue where there was no security and passengers could board their plane just minutes after driving up.

Today, the airport serves more than 2 million passengers a year, is expanding its terminal and also is home to Boeing’s new Dreamliner manufacturing plant.

Campbell was among the lawmakers standing behind Gov. Mark Sanford when he signed the incentive deal that brought Boeing to South Carolina, and Campbell said as successful as the airport has been, he would like to see it succeed even more.

Campbell noted he was sad to see former Gov. James Edwards retire as president of the Medical University of South Carolina but then happy to watch President Ray Greenberg come in and take that institution to another level. “You want to see organizations grow over time, and that’s very, very important.”

Campbell was re-elected to a new four-year term last fall and said if offered the airport director job, he would not resign the Senate District 44 seat he has held since 2007.

Campbell, 67, said he thinks he would bring some strengths to the position of airport director and would savor the learning experience.

“That’s what makes life a challenge — pick up some skills, learn new things and meet new people,” he said. “Anything I can do to support the Lowcountry and economic development in South Carolina, I’d be honored to do that.”

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771. John McDermott of The Post and Couerier contributed to this report.

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