3 nominated for aviation board

The Kenner City Council has nominated three prominent city residents to replace outgoing New Orleans Aviation Board member David Campbell, at the same time that city officials are trying to hash out several major issues at the Louis Armstrong International Airport.

On Thursday night, the council unanimously agreed to forward the names of Jules Corona, James Hudson and Todd Murphy to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu for consideration as Campbell’s replacement. The council makes recommendations for Kenner’s representative on the nine-member board, but Landrieu has the final say on who assumes the position.

Campbell, who confirmed his resignation Thursday, served on the aviation board for 12 years, with only a brief break for a run at a Kenner City Council seat. He said the position is a time-consuming one, and he wanted to spend more time focusing on his business. He said that after 12 years, maybe it was time for a new perspective.

“It’s time for a new voice,” Campbell said.

Council members were profuse in their praise of Campbell’s dedication to the city’s interests, noting that he’s always been a strong advocate for what’s best for Kenner. That is a serious concern as city officials dicker with airport officials over new guidelines for taxi drivers and how they will affect Kenner taxi cabs. The council and airport recently reached an agreement that extended the deadline for cabs that come to the airport to make equipment changes because Kenner drivers complained they could not find any businesses who could install the equipment. However, that issue is expected to be taken up again next week.

In addition, late last year the New Orleans City Council approved a streamlined process for selling 260 vacant Kenner properties purchased by the airport over the past few decades as part of a noise abatement program. Kenner officials have called those properties crucial to the city’s economic development and are developing new zoning guidelines that would allow them to be developed in the best possible way for Kenner. Several council members noted that the council had to make a rapid decision on its nominees to be certain that it had a representative in place when decisions were made.

“None of this is new stuff, new problems,” Councilwoman Michele Branigan said. “We want to make certain that we have somebody in place on the aviation board to, if at all possible, move that quickly.”

Branigan expressed her support of Hudson’s candidacy, although Councilwoman Maria Defrancesch noted that any of the three candidates would be a great representative for Kenner.

“I think we have three great nominees,” Defrancesch said. “I think we’re going to move very smoothly through this process.”

Councilman Greg Carroll noted that whoever the mayor selects must balance two sometimes competing interests when making decisions. Both Kenner and the airport have priorities that they consider paramount, and it’s only through cooperation that they can both be successful, he noted.

“It is important that he or she has the personality to be able to work with other individuals and to be able to be able to keep Kenner’s interests at hand,” Carroll said.

Cooperation and balance were characteristics favored by the candidates for the position as well. Hudson, the executive vice president at Iberia Bank, said it’s important to build on the recent improvements at the airport so it can maintain its position as an economic engine. He couldn’t identify any particular priorities right now but said he would meet with Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni and council members to get their input.

“I think the airport, obviously, is very critical to our region,” Hudson said.

Todd Murphy, the president of the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, echoed Hudson’s assertions about the importance of the airport. Murphy said balancing the needs of the business community and Kenner, while trying to help the airport take its place as a truly international hub, would be his goal. That will be especially true with the planned expansion of the facility.

“I think the airport is critical to the continued growth of our region,” Murphy said.

Corona is a retired airline executive who spent four decades in the industry. He said the plans for a new runway and the handling of the noise abatement properties are major issues that will take a deft hand, and a commitment to transparency and integrity. The airport is central to Kenner’s vitality, he said.

“It’s in Kenner, so it’s near and dear to everything we try to do in the city,” Corona said. “There’s lots of things to be done.”