Home » MBJ FEATURE » MBJ exclusive: Jackson’s new airport CEO fulfills desire to taking on the top job

MBJ exclusive: Jackson’s new airport CEO fulfills desire to taking on the top job

Carl Newman

Carl Newman

A back injury that prevented Carl Newman from entering the Phoenix police academy four decades ago led Newman to pursue a career that has him slated to become CEO of the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority on Jan. 2.

Newman, 59, will take over running Jackson’s Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport and other Jackson Municipal Airport Authority operations after a two-year stint as general manager of Houston’s George H.W. Bush Intercontinental Airport. He went to Houston after 32 years with Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport, where he rose from an entry-level job to assistant aviation director.

Newman is the first new airport chief in 24 years, replacing longtime CEO Dirk Vanderleest, who retired at the end of September.

The selection came after a national search by ADK Consulting & Executive Search of Jacksonville, Fla,, which won a $30,000 contract from the Airport Authority in July. Doug Kuelpman, ADK founder and president, said he has had a long acquaintance with Newman and told him of the Jackson job after encountering him at a recent aviation conference.

His interest was immediate, Kuelpman said.

“He wanted to be the Number One. This was his opportunity,” Kuelpman said, explaining that while Newman oversaw the operation at Bush Intercontinental, he answered to a director responsible for Bush, Hobby International and Ellington airports, all in Houston.

Newman “has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt he is capable,” said the aviation recruiter, who provided the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority a list of recommended candidates from which Newman was selected.

In Jackson, Newman will oversee a staff of slightly more than 50 people. At Bush Intercontinental, he had responsibility for more than 500 workers and focused on the day-to-day operation of the airport.

He had broader responsibilities at Phoenix Sky Harbor, he said. “I was the Number Two guy and oversaw a tremendous amount” of activities.

He retired from the Phoenix Airport System after a career in which he started at a level that was “about as low as you can get in the organization,” Newman said.

Promotions came quickly, however.

“I was never off probation… I kept getting promoted,” he said. “I started in operations, then maintenance and ended up in management. I was promoted to director of facilities and services.”

Six months after promotion to deputy director of aviation operations, his bosses elevated him to assistant aviation director, a post at which he oversaw all the divisions within the airport system.

He held that post upon retiring from the Phoenix airport system and leaving for Houston Bush Intercontinental.

Newman started his working life with the Phoenix Police Department. “I was about to go through the police academy when I injured my back,” he said in an interview a day after the announcement of his selection.

He stayed in law enforcement a brief time longer as a police assistant before joining the city’s aviation department.

Jackson Airport Authority Chairwoman LaWanda Harris said in a press statement that Newman’s broad range of aviation experience will “be critical to the continued success” of Jackson’s commercial airport and its general aviation operation at Hawkins Field.

For one, the holder of a bachelor’s degree in public administration from the University of Arizona and a master’s degree in aeronautical science from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University will face challenges on the fiscal front. The Airport Authority lost around $800,000 a year in revenues with the June departure of Southwest Airlines from the airport.

Fitch Ratings Service downgraded the Airport Authority’s $39 million bond last spring, citing the pending loss of Southwest. The downgrade caused the Authority to delay projects to enhance the terminal, terminal security and build an off-site rental-car prep facility.

Vanderleest, the former CEO, said in an interview after the downgrade that the Authority would have to do significant belt tightening to improve its credit standing.   Kuelpman, the executive recruiter, said Medgar Evers International is unlikely to regain a significant new carrier and should concentrate on bringing economic development to land around the airport. Newman is ready for that endeavor, Kuelpman said, noting the new airport chief  “had exposure to the economic development side of the house” with the Phoenix airport system.

“Doug is right,” Newman said of the recruiter’s belief that securing new revenue streams, especially through development of airport land, will be critical to his success in Jackson.

“Non-airline revenue is going to be the place we’re going to need to grow the revenue as part of an ongoing strategic planning process.”

He said he has a lot to get his arms around and will concentrate initially on “reaching out to the community.”

In the meantime, he is “pleased and happy” for an opportunity to manage an airport operation of his own.

“I have always been one to set my own course and destiny,” he said. “This is a culmination of a career desire.”

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