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Airport Authority to seek new CEO

| Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, 2:08 p.m.

A leadership shake-up in Allegheny County authorities continued on Tuesday with the reassignment of Airport Authority CEO Brad Penrod and Chief Financial Officer James Gill.

“I think we need to have somebody in there who will wake up every day thinking about how to get more flights into Pittsburgh International Airport. Obviously, we haven't done very well at that recently,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who appoints the authority's board members.

Penrod, 52, who Fitzgerald praised for his day-to-day operation of the airport, will remain with the Airport Authority as president and chief strategy officer. He did not return a call for comment. Gill will become executive vice president. Officials could not provide their salaries.

The authority will hire an outside firm to conduct a national search for a new CEO, said board member Dennis Davin, who also serves as the county's Economic Development Director. Gill “will essentially have the same responsibilities, but probably with a few more added on,” Davin said.

That, as well as Penrod's and Gill's new salaries, will be discussed at a board meeting on Friday, at which board members will vote to formalize the personnel changes, Davin said.

It's the second county authority in less than a week to remove its CEO and start a national search for a replacement. The Port Authority fired Steve Bland on Friday. Fitzgerald sought Bland's replacement.

The addition of two top-level executive positions follows the Airport Authority's appointment of a new director of corporate and community relations. Former County Councilman Vince Gastgeb, R-Bethel Park, who served on County Council with Fitzgerald, D-Squirrel Hill, for 12 years, will fill that post at a salary of $113,500 a year. Fitzgerald recommended him. Gastgeb resigned his council seat on Tuesday.

“So they've added (more salaries) to an airport that's losing money,” former County Executive and county GOP Chairman Jim Roddey said. “That sounds like a typical government strategy: If you're losing money, you need to bring in more people and lose more money.”

About 8 million passengers used the airport last year, down 3.1 percent from the year before. At its peak in 1997, before US Airways eliminated its hub there, 20.8 million passengers used the airport. The airport receives $12.5 million a year from the state's tax on casinos, money Fitzgerald has said he'd like to divert to the county.

Mike Wereschagin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7900 or mwereschagin@tribweb.com.

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