It’s no surprise that six of the seven new candidates for the airport board are women.

The all-male Charleston County Aviation Authority took its lumps this year for bullying former airport director Sue Stevens, and Chairman Andy Savage has practically demanded there be more women on the board.

So it was predictable that the legislative delegation, which nominates members of the board, would try to wipe a little egg off their faces.

What’s really most surprising here is that one of the candidates — Helen Hill — is not already on the Aviation Authority board.

“We shouldn’t even have to make this decision,” says state Rep. Jim Merrill. “It’s idiotic.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

Hill, the executive director of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, should have been making policy decisions at the airport years ago. Not because she’s a woman, but because she probably knows more about the airport, and what the community needs from it, than most of the people on the board.

It’s a no-brainer.

A needed fix

Used to be, no one wanted to serve on the poor ol’ Aviation Authority.

It was just another dull government board. But then Boeing came to town, and suddenly everyone with any political connections wanted a seat at the table.

It’s a pretty homogenous table, too. Right now, the authority board is made up almost entirely of current or former politicians. That’s no way to run a railroad, much less an airport.

What they need is a half-dozen fewer good ol’ boys and more business types, folks who actually have some working knowledge of what an airport — and the community it serves — needs.

Someone like Hill.

When she is not out making Charleston the No. 1 tourist destination in the known universe, Hill is working tirelessly to improve this city, for visitors and locals. She and her staff were instrumental in landing Southwest Airlines and JetBlue at the airport. Some people think she doesn’t get enough credit for her behind-the-scenes work.

They’re right.

This is not to say the other candidates for the board are unqualified, though you have to wonder why Jenny Sanford’s name keeps popping up for every job in town. Does she count toward the state’s unemployment figures?

Anyway, Sanford has to know her support on the delegation is somewhere south of electable. Whoever suggested she apply did her no favor.

The legislative delegation probably will appoint Hill to the Aviation Authority next week, and that’s the easiest decision they have here. And some of the pressure is off now that Mount Pleasant’s new mayor, Linda Page, automatically gets a seat on the board. They will have two — count ’em, two — women on the 13-member panel.

Now lawmakers need to appoint more women, more business types, and far fewer politicians to the board — including themselves, as Sen. Chip Campsen contends. They also need to make the director of the CVB an automatic appointment.

But what they really need is more people like Helen Hill.

If you can find anyone else that qualified.

In other news

We lost a great South Carolinian this week.

James Epps of Lake City passed away on Tuesday, and his loss could be felt all the way to the Lowcountry.

For decades, Epps served part time as the attorney for Lake City government (as well as a couple of other small towns), and he dragged Darla Moore’s community into the modern age with as much love and care as she has displayed over the years.

His hands touched the reorganization of the city’s representative government, the revitalization of Lake City’s downtown and the new Ronald E. McNair Life History Center, which honors the Challenger astronaut — another favorite native son. Jimmy Epps took great pride in the McNair Center — and his entire town.

Jimmy was a good family man, a former FBI agent and a raconteur without equal. Every conversation with him was a history lesson, an often hilarious one. J. Edgar Hoover’s ghost should be glad we never got around to that book about Jimmy’s experiences as a G-man.

Mostly, though, Jimmy Epps was simply a good man. He took public service seriously, sometimes to the detriment of his own business. It’s a shame we don’t have 1,000 more just like him. He was the last of the breed.

Lake City has lost a leader, Jimmy’s family has lost a patriarch and his fiancee, Laura Moody, has lost a mate.

And I have lost a good friend.

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