Lydia Kennard, brought back 14 months ago to end controversy over a master plan to modernize LAX and advance a regional approach to air travel, said Tuesday she will leave her post this month to return to private industry.
Kennard, 52, said in a statement that she will leave her $298,312-a-year job at the end of January but is offering to stay on as a consultant while the Airport Commission recruits a successor.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he regretted Kennard's decision and praised her work as executive director of Los Angeles World Airports.
"Lydia Kennard is a consummate leader," he said. "With her capable hand, she piloted LA World Airports to new heights, keeping operations running safely and smoothly while bringing us closer to our ultimate destination - creating a truly regional approach to air travel."
A search for a replacement will begin immediately, he added.
Kennard said she will be opening an aviation-related real estate company and is leaving after fulfilling a promise to Villaraigosa to reorganize the agency's priorities.
"I feel the goals set for LAWA when I returned in the fall of 2005 have been achieved, making this a natural time for a transition of leadership," she said.
Villaraigosa brought Kennard back to LAWA to try to resolve lawsuits that had hampered a master plan designed to modernize Los Angeles International Airport and scale back the project to a more manageable effort.
Under Kennard's direction, the plan now involves about $4 billion in projects - still one of the largest public works projects in the nation - but no longer includes many of the more controversial aspects, including the Manchester Square facility.
Airport Commission President Alan Rothenberg said the panel appreciates Kennard's experience and leadership.
"Among her many accomplishments, she was instrumental in settling lawsuits over the LAX master plan, launching more than $1 billion in airport construction activity and establishing an ethics program that is a model for government," Rothenberg said.
Kennard was first appointed by former Mayor Richard Riordan but resigned shortly after Mayor James Hahn was elected. She has never discussed her reasons for leaving, although there was wide speculation about possible clashes with Airport Commission President Ted Stein.
Airport Commissioner Val Velasco, who had been part of the organization contesting the master plan, said Kennard had indicated from the time she was appointed that she would be looking to leave soon but had hoped she would put it off until the next stage of environmental reviews are started.
Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the airport area, credited Kennard with engineering the settlement and setting a new course for LAX.
"We've been lucky to have her as long as we have and to be able to draw on her expertise in selecting a successor," he said.
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