The DOT Aviation Advisory Board met on Wednesday. Between the agenda items discussed, such as the proposed Birchwood Airport divestment, rural airports, the governor’s proposed aviation fuel tax and the governor’s proposed airplane tax that targets private pilots, board members expressed concerns about what Gov. Bill Walker’s plans are now that he has released Airport Manager John Parrott. No replacement has been named.
Whomever the governor appoints may only have a one-year job, and then the next governor will have the ability to appoint his or her own person. Critics say the governor has injected politics back into the aviation sector and it is a destabilizing move at a time when the Alaska economy is on its heels.
The first political hiring was at the Fairbanks International Airport. The long-time manager left, and political appointee Jeff Roach was hired Nov. 6, 2015 at the request of former Walker Chief of Staff Jim Whitaker.
Now with Parrott suddenly gone, DOT Deputy Commissioner John Binder is acting airport manager.
One in 10 jobs in Anchorage is related to the Ted Stevens International Airport. It is one of the busiest cargo airports in the world. Parrott had been manager of the airport since 2008, and had been with the airport since the 1990s.
The aviation industry is nervous in Alaska. The governor has just rolled out his airplane tax and registration, and Birchwood Airport pilots are nervous about state talks of divesting the airport.
And word is the person Gov. Walker had lined up to replace Parrott has withdrawn his name.
The job pays less than half of the industry standard, according to those in the field, because it is a State of Alaska job. Finding a qualified person to run the airport is a challenge because of the uncompetitive pay and because the job may only last one year.