Jenny Sanford, 6 others seeking seat on Charleston airport board

South Carolina’s former first lady, a field representative for her ex-husband and the head of the region’s tourism agency are among several high-profile candidates seeking a seat on Charleston County Aviation Authority.

In all, seven people applied for the position on the 13-member board that pays $35 per meeting. Six of them are women, including Jenny Sanford, ex-wife of former governor and now U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford.

Aviation Authority Chairman Andy Savage has been pushing for more women to be seated on the board, which was all male until early November. The election of Linda Page as Mount Pleasant’s mayor last month brought the first female member to the board in several years.

Along with Sanford, the applicants are Jennet Robinson Alterman, former head of Charleston’s Center for Women; Elizabeth L. Boineau, owner of a Charleston public relations firm; Helen T. Hill, executive director of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau; Catherine McGinn, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel; Jordan Scott Pace, a field representative for Mark Sanford; and management consultant Margaret Thorne Seidler, according to Cathy Collum, the legislative coordinator for Charleston County’s legislative delegation.

Fourteen House members on the delegation will decide Monday which nominee will fill a seat being vacated in February by restaurant chain and travel agency owner Michael Stavrinakis. He recently accepted a seat on the board of the Medical University of South Carolina, another politically appointed position.

The airport board seat is a House-appointed position. Senate members of the delegation will not vote, said Sen. Chip Campsen, chairman of the Charleston delegation.

The nominee’s name will be forwarded to Gov. Nikki Haley, whose office will perform a background check before she accepts or rejects the House members’ selection.

With six women in the running, it’s likely one could be selected.

Page, the new mayor of Mount Pleasant, like the mayors of Charleston and North Charleston, automatically has a seat on the board by state law. She replaced former mayor Billy Swails, who did not seek re-election.

A group formed in January called Project XX to get more women elected to office and appointed to boards and commissions is pushing for a female to win the forthcoming open slot.

“PXX has been working hard to break up the Bubba Aviation Nation,” the group founded earlier this year by Ginny Deerin and Nikki Hardin of Charleston, said on its Facebook page.

“Several great women have recently applied for an open seat, and the Charleston legislative delegation will vote on this one. Do what you can to encourage the delegation to move from one (woman) of 13 (members) on the commission to two of 13. That would be a step in the right direction,” according to the Facebook post.

Insiders believe Hill, the Charleston tourism agency director, is the favorite, but House members and the governor have the final say.

Rep. Chip Limehouse, vice chairman of the delegation and officially a member of the Aviation Authority though he sends accountant Ellie Thomas as his proxy, questioned why the process was being hurried through since Stavrinakis has not resigned yet. His term expires June 1.

“We have never done this before someone stepped down,” Limehouse said. “This is breaking every precedent we ever had.”

Nevertheless, Limehouse said he doesn’t intend to hold up the selection process when the delegation meets Monday.

The Aviation Authority, once a sleepy agency that oversaw Charleston International Airport and two smaller airports in Charleston County, has taken on more prominence in recent years after Boeing Co. set up shop at the airport to build parts for and assemble the 787 Dreamliner. Boeing leases the land on which its production plant sits from the Aviation Authority.

The planemaker also is planning an undisclosed future expansion on 267 acres of airport-owned land being bought by an arm of the state Commerce Department on its behalf.

Charleston International is also the state’s busiest airport and is undergoing a $189 million makeover to accommodate its growth in passengers in recent years.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.

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