Search for South Carolina Airports Director Nears End

Jul. 9--After two rounds of applications and one false start, Beaufort County officials are closing in on a choice for the new airports director and expect a pick within a few weeks.

The selection committee has received 28 applications as of Thursday, said Anne Esposito, a member of the Aviation Advisory Board who is helping with the search. The application period closed June 30.

The candidates are from all over the country and even Canada. Esposito said five are "top-notch" applicants who are certified by the American Association of Airport Executives. Some are managing large airports, she said.

"There are quite a few that are extraordinary, I'm happy to report," said Esposito, who served as an airport director in Ohio and Michigan. "It was incredible, the response."

This is the second time the county has accepted applications for the position overseeing the Hilton Head Island Airport and Beaufort County Airport. It has been vacant since February when Tom Olson resigned.

The county announced in May that it selected former director of San Diego city airports Tracy Williams, but it rescinded the job offer later that same week when details of her past arose. Williams did not disclose during the interview process that she was involved in a major fraud lawsuit or that she stepped down from the position amid an inquiry into several no-bid contracts she approved.

Beaufort County had offered her a $67,500 salary. County officials said checks into Williams' record, including a criminal background, did not return any information about the lawsuit. They also said they did not expect to be misled by someone with a strong resume and positive references.

Asked if the county would look deeper into candidates' backgrounds this time, Esposito said: "You better believe it."

Interviews have been on hold while county staff return from holiday vacations, but Esposito said she hopes to create a short-list of candidates to conduct telephone interviews with and follow up with in-person interviews.

Paul Andres, the county capital improvements program implementation manager, has been serving as interim manager. Officials said Andres has been handling the position well, but Esposito said she would like to finish the search quickly.

"I hope to have this over with as soon as possible," she said.

"My deadline is ASAP."