The former director of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport will soon be lending his expertise to a local landing strip.
St. Clair County will pay Col. Leonard Griggs Jr. up to $25,000 a year for two years of consulting work, benefiting MidAmerica St. Louis Airport, under an agreement the county Public Building Commission approved Thursday.
"I've always been a supporter of MidAmerica and I'm excited to now be a part of it," Griggs, 73, said. "I think with my experience in dealing with the federal government and expertise in airports ... I can help this airport grow."
The Public Building Commission shared Grigg's optimism.
"I don't think we could find a better individual," Chairman Richard Sauget said. "He has an innate understanding of what we're doing and what we're all about."
Griggs, who also served as the Federal Aviation Administration's former assistant administrator for airports, mostly will be in charge soliciting the federal government for additional grant money and identifying possible tenants for MidAmerica Airport.
"He's a stalwart in airport operations," MidAmerica Airport Director Tim Cantwell said. "This asset is just absolutely incredible. There is no one of this quality and value available in the nation today. He comes to us with great value and is a national treasure as a consultant."
Critics disagreed and said that if MidAmerica wanted to expand its cargo operations, Griggs isn't the man to help.
Griggs' personal style isn't the way to go, according to Juli Niemann, an analyst with RT Jones Capital Equities in St. Louis and frequent MidAmerica critic.
"You almost have to say, 'What's the point?'" Niemann said.
Griggs, a 1954 West Point graduate, served 23 years in the Air Force before his appointment as Lambert's director in 1977. A dispute with then-St. Louis Mayor Vince Schoemehl led to his dismissal from the post ten years later.
In 1989, President George H.W. Bush appointed Griggs as an assistant administrator with the FAA. It was in this role that Griggs approved the initial funds that launched MidAmerica, a $100 million grant from the federal government.
Griggs left the FAA in 1993, when then-St. Louis Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. reappointed Griggs to run Lambert. He retired as director last December.
Griggs' tenure as the airport's director wasn't a quiet one. He launched a $1.1 billion expansion of the airport that razed around 2,000 homes in northwest St. Louis County. Griggs also caught flak for refusing to live within St. Louis city limits, despite city policy requiring employees to do so.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay praised Griggs for his leadership ability, knowledge of the airline industry and straight-forward manner when he stepped down as Lambert's director. MidAmerica officials are looking for the same.