Paul Campbell (copy) (copy)

Paul Campbell, CEO of Charleston County Aviation Authority and a state senator, has led the state's busiest airport, Charleston International, since 2013. File/Brad Nettles/Staff

One of the Charleston region's economic engines is led by a state senator and former Alcoa executive.

It's an unlikely arrangement, but Paul Campbell has served as CEO of Charleston County Aviation Authority since 2013, shepherding Charleston International through steady expansion of both air service and the terminal.

Next week, the 11-member airport board will consider extending his contract, possibly for another two years after the current term expires in August. His experience as an engineer and former business executive are touted among reasons to keep him at the helm of the state's busiest terminal.

On Thursday, a five-member panel led by Charleston's chief tourism official, Helen Hill, who also sits on the airport board, met behind closed doors for about an hour to discuss the terms of Campbell's new contract and make a recommendation to the full board.

"We will recommend an extension and an increase in pay," Hill said.

She said details on the length of the contract and the amount of the salary hike will be decided by the board, where Campbell has broad-based support.

Hill said the board wants to keep Campbell in the pilot's seat because of his background.

"One of the great benefits of keeping Paul," she said, "is not only is he an engineer who understands construction in a growth period for the airport, but as a former CEO of a private company he has great business acumen with a longstanding relationship and standing in the community."

Campbell, 72, was tapped to lead the airport in August 2013 just as the airport was about to embark on a $200 million overhaul of the terminal.

In 2017, the board approved a two-year extension of Campbell's contract, boosting his salary to $250,000 a year. He started at $192,000 in 2013 before getting an increase in pay to $225,000 in 2015.

"I didn't take the job for the pay," Campbell said. "I took it to serve the public."

Campbell steered the airport through the four-year expansion and renovation of the terminal and has seen airline service grow with new airlines and new routes during his tenure. Alaska, Allegiant, Frontier and British Airways have all launched service out of Charleston since 2015.

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The airport's passenger count has steadily increased in recent years, rising to a record 4.47 million last year. It's projected to surpass 5 million this year. To put the airport's growth in perspective, the number of passengers stood at about 2 million in 2010.

The airport is currently building a five-tier, 3,005-space parking deck that is expected to open in November 2020 behind the existing three-level garage.

Airport staff also is looking at expanding the airline ticket counter space and will soon embark on early engineering for a third wing with more gates that officials believe will be needed by 2023.

The airport hopes to keep Campbell around for his leadership and engineering skills as it moves into a new expansion phase.

"I'll leave at the appropriate time based on construction activity at the airport," Campbell said. "I know how to build stuff, which is good and bad because it keeps me here."

A separate airport committee is working on terms of a legal services contract. Arnold Goodstein has served as the Aviation Authority's attorney for more than two decades. His annual retainer fee is currently set at $250,000, according to an airport spokeswoman.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524. Follow him on Twitter @warrenlancewise.