David Jennings' tenure on the Charleston County Aviation Authority came to a halt Tuesday when County Council refused to recommend him for another term, picking high-profile defense lawyer Andy Savage to take his place on the body that runs the region's three airports.
Jennings, who had been involved with the authority over much of the last two decades and is its current chairman, fell victim to a mix of politics, business decisions and personality clashes with politicians who claimed he was too entrenched or too rigid.
"It appears the Aviation Authority has been run heavy-handed over the years, and it's time for us to get more progressive," County Councilman Elliott Summey said in an interview.
While the vote to not reappoint Jennings came from a majority of County Council, some members of Charleston City Council, the county's Statehouse delegation and even a local Republican women's group got behind the effort to remove him.
"It is time for him to go and for Republicans to take over. The members of the Charleston County Republican Women's Club Inc will be watching," President Kay Long said in an e-mail.
Reached after the vote, state Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, who also is a member of the authority, said Jennings had a management style that was not inclusive, calling Savage "more qualified, and I like his leadership." He continued, "Nobody has a birthright and entitlement to a position."
Jennings was at the meeting Tuesday but did not speak. Afterward, he said he did not know where the movement to oust him came from, citing a successful year. "Nobody said anything about my shortcomings," he said.
Appointees to the 13-member authority are paid $35 a meeting, but serving also isconsidered a key position in helping chart the region's economic future. A new chairman still must be selected.
Jennings' status began to appear uncertain this spring, when Charleston City Council balked on his expected reappointment. Instead, City Councilman Tim Mallard sought to nominate fellow Councilman Jimmy Gallant for the seat held by Jennings, and Gallant said Limehouse had asked him to seek the position.
Last week, when a County Council committee voted to support Savage for the slot, Jennings cited his work in the high-stakes efforts to attract Boeing Co.'s Dreamliner plant and the new service from Southwest Airlines that is expected to start here next year.
Detractors claimed that Jennings had a reputation for being difficult, among them Mallard, who is a proxy member for Republican state Sen. Glenn McConnell on the authority. In an interview before Tuesday's vote, Mallard cited "numerous complaints about Jennings' arrogance and the ability to work with others."
When pressed, Mallard said he could not cite a specific business or person who registered a complaint, but noted that for years the high cost of flying through Charleston has not been good for business or other travelers.
"We constantly have to drive to Savannah or Myrtle Beach to get inexpensive flights," he said.
Mallard, who has a background in economic development work, has applied for a job with the airport, though its description specifics are targeted more toward technical operations tied to helping Boeing's operational needs. The job pays about $90,000 a year and the application process closed last month. A filing announcement has not been made.
Savage was not at the meeting Tuesday, but the recommendation is part of a joint pick the county makes with the city of Charleston where both sides traditionally support the other's selection.
The county today will ask the city to move forward on its pick. Their agreed-to choice then goes to the governor for final approval.
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.
David Slade contributed to this report.