Next BWI `mayor' yet to be appointed

Mathison retiring after 14 years


June 05, 1999|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

With just three weeks to go before Theodore E. Mathison retires, state officials still have not named anyone to succeed him as executive director of the Maryland Aviation Administration, which runs Baltimore-Washington International Airport and smaller airports throughout the state.

Mathison, who has been the BWI "mayor" for 14 years, will retire July 1, leaving behind a state-run facility that has become a hub for revenue.

Last year, BWI served more than 15 million travelers -- a record multitude for the fifth straight year.

The airport also set air cargo records last year, handling more than 420 million pounds -- an 18.8 percent increase from 1997.

State Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari said his office has been interviewing candidates as part of a nationwide search for about six months.

He said he hopes to name a new director by the end of the month, but he will not rush to meet a July 1 deadline.

"We want to treat BWI as the state asset that it is," Porcari said.

"We'll take as much time as we need to fill this position. We have had more than a dozen very good candidates. We're not done, but we're wrapping it up as quickly as we can."

BWI has flourished under Mathison to become one of the fastest-growing airports in the region.

When Mathison took the helm in 1985, only 7 million passengers passed through the airport and revenue stood at $31 million. Each of those figures has more than doubled during Mathison's tenure, and operating profit has nearly quadrupled -- from $8.9 million in 1985 to $33 million last year.

Mathison, 67, has also overseen extensive terminal expansions, several runway extensions and the construction of a multilevel parking garage. He also developed a $46 million noise-reduction program that included soundproofing schools and homes near the airport and relocating some homeowners.

This year, the airport has begun an overhaul of Pier D, which is used by US Airways and TWA. It is adding a new baggage belt and building a 362,000-square-foot cargo complex, and, earlier this year, it completed a 12.5-mile bike trail, which circles the airport grounds.

The job of director has involved juggling competing interests to expand business and entice travelers to the airport, appeasing angry residents concerned about noise and sprawl, and making the 3,158.4-acre field in northern Anne Arundel appealing to aviation and cargo businesses.

Mathison has also been responsible for coordinating the state's regional airports and developing a transportation network among them. The new director will be expected to enhance that network to bring regional commuter services from the farthest and most rural areas of the state -- the Eastern Shore, Southern and Western Maryland -- to BWI, Porcari said. Commuter airports give residents in smaller markets easy access to larger airports where they can connect with national or international flights.

BWI has two daily flights to and from Salisbury, but other networks have yet to be established, an MAA spokeswoman said.

Attracting more international carriers, flights and passengers is also a goal, Porcari said. International service increased 9.8 percent last year, but that was not enough to pay for the $140 million William Donald Schaefer International Terminal, completed in 1998.

The capacity for international travel is seen as a valuable tool for economic development. Some corporations looking for new homes have reportedly shied away from the Baltimore area because of a lack of convenient access to foreign destinations.

Porcari said if he has not selected a candidate by the end of the month, he could name an interim director or have the management team there, led by deputy administrators Nick Schaus and Kirk Wineland, pick up the slack.

Pub Date: 6/05/99

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