Retreat meant to avoid past pitfalls

The Charleston County Aviation Authority oversees Charleston International Airport, which is undergoing a $189 million expansion and renovation. Another $10 million in improvements will be made by concessionaires.

What a difference a year makes.

Last year at this time, the Charleston County Aviation Authority was in the midst of upheaval after its longtime director abruptly resigned in July. A year later, a few faces at the top have changed and the 13-member board's makeup is radically different.

It now has a new director, Paul Campbell, who was seated in late August last year, two new deputy directors and six new members on the board.

With a slew of new people, Chairman Andy Savage, a noted Charleston attorney, thought it would be a good idea to hold a retreat to bring everyone up to speed on what the authority does, what the staff is responsible for and the board's duties.

Tentatively set for mid-September, it not only targets new board members, but also is meant for longer-serving members to sort of drive home that the board sets policy and the staff carries it out.

"The main goal of the retreat is to provide an opportunity for our board members to establish social connections, enjoy camaraderie and to engage in a discussion about the board's responsibilities and how to improve our oversight and interactions with staff," Savage said.

"We can expect a discussion about who should set policy and who should be accountable for the implementation of that policy, how can the board objectively evaluate staff performance, and where is the line drawn between our responsibility and staff responsibility and how do we avoid muddling those lines," he said.

Since August 2013, incoming board members include lawyer Walter Hundley, regional tourism chief Helen Hill, former South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford, real estate agent Henry Fishburne, organization development consultant and trainer Margaret Seidler, and real estate agent Hagood Morrison, who has been serving as Rep. Chip Limehouse's proxy.

Former Mount Pleasant Mayor Billy Swails was on the board until his term ended late last year. The House delegation chose to put him back on the board in June.

On the administrative side, Campbell took over from former authority Director Sue Stevens, whose discrimination claim was settled in July; and the position of deputy director formerly held by Bill New, who retired earlier this year, is now split into two deputy directors: Al Britnell is over administration and security, while John Connell handles engineering and planning.

So, with six new faces on the board and three new faces at the helm and much of the past controversy and infighting behind it, the retreat could serve as a fresh start for an agency that oversees what is not a little country airport anymore. More importantly, it could serve to avoid some of the pitfalls of the past.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or