Less than a year after the unexpected resignation of Jack Brooks Regional Airport Direct Jennifer Hogencamp in July 2012, Jefferson County Commissioners voted at their meeting Tuesday, Feb. 13, to make interim director Alex Rupp the permanent head of their airport.
The decision was split, however, with Precinct 4 Commissioner Everette “Bo” Alfred and Precinct 3 Commissioner Michael Sinegal voting no to the appointment.
Alfred and Sinegal said the county should continue searching for a replacement and should consider other applicants along with Rupp.
“I don’t think it would be a waste of county taxpayers money to go out and do a national search,” Sinegal said.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Brent Weaver and others on the board were unmoved. Weaver, Precinct 1 Commissioner Eddie Arnold and County Judge Jeff Branick voted “Yes,” approving Rupp as director in the 3-2 vote.
“I see no reason to waste county time and money searching for other applicants when we have the best applicant as a county employee currently serving as interim airport director,” Weaver said.
Weaver was among Rupp’s most adamant supporters at Tuesday’s meeting, reading a statement aloud in support of Rupp.
In July 2012, Jennifer Hogencamp resigned, citing Weaver as the reason she was leaving the post. She said Weaver usurped her authority on key issues regarding airport business. Soon thereafter, Rupp, the airport’s chief financial officer, was appointed interim director in Hogencamp’s place.
“As the interim airport manager since last year, he has proven himself on many occasions, meeting the challenges of the job and being successful,” Weaver said, adding Rupp’s accomplishments include “restoration of commercial airport service, numerous FAA grants, airport property development on Frontage Road, and general aviation improvements to the terminals.”
After a few brief statements from Sinegal and Alfred, Branick said the county had already done a national search at a cost to county taxpayers. He said at least two other applications were received during the county’s search, but were not chosen over Rupp.
“Neither one of those worked out,” Branick said. “And it was a very time-consuming and expensive process.”
Immediately following his appointment to the post, Rupp said he was ready to hit the ground running.
“Top priorities are making sure this new air service works and people use it,” he said, referring to the new American Airlines service out of Beaumont, which begins Thursday, Feb. 14.
Along with hopes for renewed service to airports throughout the U.S., Rupp said the capital improvements to Frontage Road could include a hotel and retail space for visiting shoppers.
“The end result should be a wonderful retail area,” he said.
Clay Thorp can be reached at (409) 832-1400, ext. 225, or by e-mail at clay [at] theexaminer [dot] com.