The outgoing top executive at Lehigh Valley International Airport said he is proud of his record here as he moves later this month to a role in metropolitan New York where he will help manage a larger airport system.
Meanwhile, the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority promoted Tom Stoudt to interim director to replace Charles Everett, the executive director who is leaving to work at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Stoudt currently serves as the director of operations and safety and has worked for the airport authority for 22 years.
The authority will conduct a national search for a permanent executive director, said Colin Riccobon, public information officer for LNAA.
Aug. 18 marks Everett’s last official day at LVIA. Everett accepted the deputy director of aviation position, which is the number two position in the department of aviation at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in Manhattan. Everett said he will share a leadership role that’s responsible for a six-airport system that annually is responsible for 130 million passengers and 2 million tons of cargo.
At LVIA, the authority reported 688,505 passengers traveling through the airport in 2016. The past year, LVIA transported 126 million pounds of cargo.
As executive director of LNAA, Everett is in a role that makes him the CEO of the Lehigh Valley International Airport in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, Queen City Airport in Allentown and Braden Airpark in Forks Township. The authority has 230 employees.
Prior to joining LNAA, Everett worked for the Federal Aviation Administration as the manager of the National Planning Division, where he guided airports on planning and capacity needs. He subsequently was a liaison on Capitol Hill, advising members of Congress on airport issues, spending five years in total with the FAA.
“I really wanted to get back to airports, so this opportunity presented itself,” Everett said of the move to the Lehigh Valley. “I felt like this was a way to get back out into the field.”
When he arrived at LNAA in 2011, he worked for a management firm hired by the authority. Everett then joined LNAA.
One of his biggest accomplishments was to pay off a $26 million judgment facing the airport authority over a 1990s lawsuit. The debt caused many necessary upgrades to be delayed until it could be paid.
Aside from the judgment, Everett said, refinancing airport debt was another significant accomplishment. The airport authority had been paying interest rates of 6 percent to 8 percent and through refinancing was able to help the authority lower the interest rates to 3 percent to 4 percent.
“That’s generating a savings of almost $1 million per year,” Everett said.
How the airport authority dealt with surplus real estate was another accomplishment that Everett said enabled LNAA to generate revenue and pay off the remaining debt from the judgment.
The most prominent example is the nearly $10 million sale two years ago of 260 acres in neighboring Allen Township to the Rockefeller Group for development of a FedEx Ground facility, now under construction and expected to open next year.
“That kind of effort will bring thousands of jobs long term,” Everett said. “We have additional parcels that could be sold and developed.”
Most recently, the airport authority is looking at a potential ground lease for 298 acres of flight path properties in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, that could generate additional revenue, he added.
Over the years, Everett said, he has helped the airport authority improve LVIA by focusing on the customer experience to enhance it not only at the airport but also in the community.
The recent opening of an intermodal center is an example of enhancing customer service at the airport by increasing access to bus services and bringing car rental parking spaces closer to the terminal so people don’t have to walk as far, he said.
Another accomplishment is the introduction of the Transportation Security Administration’s pre-check program, which allows passengers to be checked in through the airport more efficiently.
LNAA also decided to expand into ground handling services and is embarking on a cargo apron (ramp) expansion.
“We are trying to look at ways we can diversify our services, satisfy market demand,” Everett said.
He also helped the airport authority begin a master plan so it will know its future demands. In April, he was able to get the authority board of governors to approve a strategic plan for all three airports which charts the course and time frame from an organizational standpoint, he said.
Everett also helped reorganize LNAA to make the operation more efficient, and he put a focus on training, safety and company culture.
He is also proud of the LVIA air shows he brought in, which provided the airport with a deeper connection to the community.
Everett also volunteered, including serving on the board for Discover Lehigh Valley and as chairman of the African American Business Leaders Council of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Everett lives in Easton with his wife and, for now, plans to commute to his new job while they look at a potential move closer to Manhattan.