In just 11 days, we will inaugurate a new president and a new administration. I have spent time this week attending parties and meetings for officials who will depart; a Washington ritual repeated every 4 to 8 years.
On Wednesday, I went to a going away event for Kirk Shaffer. Kirk is the FAA Associate Administrator for
Airports and has been in that position for the past two years. Earlier in his career, he was counsel to the Nashville airport and even earlier he was an Army Ranger. Kirk once chaired the ACI-NA Legal Committee. Kirk has given so much to his country and to this industry over the years, and these past two years have been no exception. Kirk always tells you where he stands and is always willing to work with you to get things done. Kirk is literally willing to travel the globe to promote airport development and safety; he traveled with me to Ghana this past summer and more recently traveled to Iraq to help certify airports there.
Yesterday, Chris Bidwell from our office and I met with outgoing TSA head Kip Hawley. Kip and I started our jobs at around the same time and so sort of grew up together. I have always told Kip that, unlike so many others in authority in Washington, there was no one out there who wanted his job. Kip has one of the toughest jobs in government. He came into a very difficult situation, not only was TSA in need of strong leadership, but relations with industry were not as good as they could have been. Kip has done a great job pointing TSA in a good direction for the future, and has invested a lot of his time and energy into building stronger relationships with industry. I don’t know what Kip will do next, but he certainly deserves a rest.
Tonight, I will attend a going away party for Bobby Sturgell, formerly Deputy FAA Administrator and, since
September, 2007, Acting Administrator. Bobby was nominated by President Bush to a full five-year term as administrator, but his nomination was never acted upon by the Senate. Bobby is a true gentleman and aviation professional who wants nothing but the best for the air transportation system. His door has always been open to us as an organization, and more importantly to the airport community. Bobby was previously a commercial pilot, and has also been a fighter pilot. He also sees the big picture: I still recall him asking me to come see him to talk about how FAA can help improve airports all over the world — an important issue as more Americans travel to more destinations.
All three of these people are true professionals whom it has been a great pleasure to know and work with. We didn’t always agree, but I always knew they were motivated by the highest ideals. I will miss all of them.