Aviation chief fights for job

Jennings

At the helm of the Charleston County Aviation Authority when local leaders lured Boeing Co.'s Dreamliner plant and new service from Southwest Airlines, David Jennings had a big year.

But now he's up for reappointment, and if a Charleston County Council committee vote this week gives any indication of the future, his days as chairman of the 13-member panel could be numbered.

A committee that deals with administrative issues voted Thursday 2-1, with one member absent, to recommend high-profile Charleston defense attorney Andy Savage for the job.

The matter goes before the full council Tuesday, and that recommendation then goes to Gov. Mark Sanford. County officials said the governor typically takes six weeks to make an appointment.

Speaking before the committee Thursday, Jennings told the group: "You have a choice today of making a business decision or a political decision."

He brought his wife to speak, and he touched on his role leading the agency during key negotiations, including those with Boeing and Southwest. "As you decide today whether to recommend that I be fired or rehired, let me leave you with one question: In the past eight years, what would you have me do that I didn't do?"

Jennings, an attorney with the Charleston-based law firm of Rosen Rosen and Hagood, first became chairman of the airport board in 2004 and served as a board member for two years prior to that. He also served on the authority from 1980 to 1994, including a six-year stint as chairman then.

He earned his private pilot's license in 1978 and brings previous experience from serving on boards for the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.

Councilman Elliott Summey said Friday that his recommending Savage for the appointment "is in no way an indictment of David Jennings" but stressed that the past year's business achievements came from a team effort and not a single agency, much less one person.

"Who better to nominate and put on the Aviation Authority than someone as smart and as brilliant as Andy Savage?" Summey said. "I dare ask you to find someone better. He's willing to take his valuable time and his vast intellect and apply it in a voluntary role in our community. That'ssomething special."

Savage was in the Air Force and served on County Council from 1986 to 1994.

An attorney with Savage and Savage, his list of clients includes Egyptian Youssef Megahed, one of two college students caught with what police say were pipe bombs near a sensitive government facility, and Al Parish, the former Charleston Southern University economist who was convicted of bilking millions of dollars from investors.

Savage did not returns calls seeking comment about the airport appointment Friday.

Seven people applied to be chairman. Following Thursday's vote, Jennings sent a letter to County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor, also a member of the airport board, listing accomplishments during his tenure.

"I'm disappointed this appointment has become so politicized," Jennings said Friday, adding he didn't know the reason why.

The authority is made up of seven appointees and six state and local elected officials. It owns and operates Charleston International Airport, Mount Pleasant Regional Airport and Charleston Executive Airport on Johns Island.

Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or abird@postandcourier.com.