Airport lures new engineering director from city of Charleston

Hernan Pena will join the staff of Charleston County Aviation Authority April 20 as vice president of engineering.

After a series of upper-level staff losses to other agencies, Charleston International Airport is taking one from the city of Charleston.

Hernan E. Pena Jr., director of traffic and transportation for the city, will become vice president of engineering at Charleston County Aviation Authority, which oversees the state’s busiest airport. He starts April 20 with a salary of about $150,000, according to airport CEO Paul Campbell. He currently earns about $111,000 a year.

The position has been open for several months, after John Connell left the agency. He now works for Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

For the past three years, Pena has been chairman of the airport committee overseeing the nearly $200 million renovation and expansion of the terminal. For 16 years, he frequently served on the board as the proxy for the mayor of Charleston when the mayor was unable to attend.

While working for the city for the past 29 years, Pena has been involved in numerous transportation projects for the city, including the Ravenel Bridge and others through the transportation sales tax.

“He will be a great asset to our organization because of his extensive experience in transportation,” Campbell said. “His knowledge of airports and the aviation industry and, in particular, Charleston International and our terminal redevelopment project will allow for a seamless transition as we continue to grow as an airport and economic development engine in the Lowcountry.”

The terminal redevelopment is expected to be completed by this summer, but other large construction projects wait in the wings, including a second parking deck and expanded ticketing hall to handle the growing number of passengers at Charleston International. Last year, the airport saw a record 3.4 million travelers coming and going. The number could swell to 4 million by 2023, based on airport estimates.

“He is a perfect fit for us as we wrap up one major construction project and plan for our future,” said Billy Swails, chairman of the Aviation Authority board.

Pena, who has degrees in engineering, said he hopes “to contribute to the success of this outstanding organization.”

Pena’s arrival follows the departures last month of two top-level airport staff members after several years of service.

Chief Financial Officer Judi Olmstead left after 15 years to become assistant director at Myrtle Beach International Airport and Sean Tracey, director of planning and development, took a job with the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce after 11 years at the airport.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.