The head of South Carolina’s busiest airport will stay at the helm for two more years, postponing retirement plans announced in 2016.
The Charleston County Aviation Authority voted unanimously Thursday to keep CEO Paul Campbell in charge of Charleston International and its two other airports.
Campbell, 70, and a Republican state senator from Goose Creek, currently earns $225,000 annually, but a new contract will be written where he could make more, according to Aviation Authority chairman Billy Swails.
Campbell originally planned to retire by last December. The board requested he stay on month to month in the fall after a national search for a new CEO turned up no suitable candidates.
“He saved us four years ago, and with the expansion we are getting and his engineering and management background, he is the most important hire we have ever had here,” Swails said.
Passenger volume at Charleston International is up 83 percent since 2010.
Because of that growth, the authority will start work by early next year on a realignment of the airport loop road to create more parking, as existing spaces will be displaced by the construction of a garage that can hold more than 3,000 vehicles.
The board wants continuity within its senior management ranks as it issues bonds later this year to finance those projects, which are estimated to cost more than $133 million.
“We still have a lot of work to do, and we’ve come a long way,” Campbell said after the board’s vote. “It’s an opportunity and a challenge, and I look forward to working with the board.”
The board tapped Campbell, a former Alcoa executive, four years ago to lead the agency after previous director Sue Stevens resigned over disagreements with the then-politically charged panel.
Her departure occurred just as the agency was about to issue bonds to pay for the $200 million renovation and expansion of the passenger terminal. The abrupt departure almost caused bonding agencies to back away, a move that could have cost millions more dollars in higher interest payments.
In addition to Charleston International, the Aviation Authority also oversees Mount Pleasant Regional Airport and Charleston Executive Airport on Johns Island.