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"Gainesville CEO resigns from airport position"


 
Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Crider resigns from airport postition
By NATHAN CRABBE
The Gainesville (FL) Sun


The chief executive of Gainesville Regional Airport is stepping down to work
for a company that has been awarded several major airport contracts during
his tenure.

Airport CEO Rick Crider announced Monday he will leave to work for R.W.
Armstrong, a Indianapolis-based consulting firm specializing in airport
development. Crider has given the airport 60 days notice, but said he'll
offer to work beyond that time as his replacement is sought.

Crider will serve in a newly created position at R.W. Armstrong as its vice
president of airport development and management services. He said his
experience in guiding the Gainesville airport through building projects will
serve him well in the position, as he will advise other airports on such
work.

"It was just a good fit for me," he said.

But some members of the airport authority say the company's work on airport
projects raises questions about the move.

The firm has been awarded more than $2.9 million in contracts during
Crider's tenure, according to airport spokeswoman Michelle Danisovsky. It
designed the rehabilitation of the Gainesville airport runway, lighting
improvements to its taxiways, a hangar for Eclipse Aviation and a new
entrance on Waldo Road.

Authority member W.E. "Mac" McEachern said the move is especially troubling
at a time the airport is facing difficulties such as Eclipse's inability to
deliver its first jet.

"He's somebody that has been recommending them (Armstrong) for major
contracts," he said, "and now he's going to work for them at a time when the
house of cards is falling down."

Crider said he doesn't see a conflict of interest in accepting the job.
While the airport administration gives recommendations on contracts, he said
the authority makes the final decision on awarding them.

He'll initially work at the company's Gainesville office, but said he won't
be handling any projects at the airport here and will eventually move to
help create a office in the Southwest U.S.

"We wanted this to be very transparent. The reality is I won't be working on
Gainesville engineering projects," he said.

The airport authority, which meets Thursday, will decide whether to keep
Crider in his position while his replacement is sought. McEachern said he'll
push for the airport assistant executive director Allan Penska to be given
the job.

He said he'll also call for future chief executives to be restricted from
accepting a job with a company that has done business with the airport for
three years after their departure. Authority members are bound by a similar
provision.

Crider has served as airport CEO since February 2002. The renovation of the
airport's passenger terminal, which is scheduled to be completed by the end
of next year, is one of the most visible accomplishments of his tenure. He
also helped get Eclipse, which builds very small jets, and DayJet, which
plans to use those jets for an air-taxi service, to establish maintenance
centers here.

But the past year has included some rough patches. Northwest Airlines
stopped flights here in May, less than two years after starting the service.
The passenger terminal project was scaled back after costs rose beyond the
anticipated budget. Eclipse hasn't yet delivered its first jet, causing
DayJet to delay starting its service.

Airport authority Chairman Peter Johnson said he views Crider's legacy as
positive. He doesn't see anything troubling in the move, saying it was just
something that came from Crider's close work with the company.

"It was a surprise, but I think that when you have somebody that's good
they're going to have these opportunities present themselves," he said.

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