Charles Everett Jr., who has helped Lehigh Valley International (ABE) navigate through financial issues and several deferred maintenance projects since taking over as director in 2011, will leave his position for a role with the Port Authority of New York-New Jersey.
Everett told ARN the specifics of his role as deputy director of aviation at PANYNJ are yet to be determined, but he suspects he’ll assist Huntley Lawrence, director of aviation, and each of the system’s airport general managers as they plan and execute billions of dollars in capital improvement projects in the years ahead.
“It seems like an unparalleled career opportunity,” Everett says. “Typically, when you do a project at an airport you see it from start to finish, from concept to operation. With the projects that are currently programmed in that airport system, it seems like it’s going to be very challenging, but yet in the end rewarding, as well, because they will benefit the customers. They’ll have better facilities to use and that’s what is important.”
His final day at ABE is Friday. He previously has been a manager with the Federal Aviation Administration and he helped manage Syracuse Hancock International (SYR).
Everett arrived at ABE in September 2011. At the time, the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority had a contract with AvPorts to oversee day-to-day operations at ABE and two smaller airports. The authority parted ways with AvPorts in 2013 but retained Everett as director.
When he arrived, the airport was facing a $26 million debt due to a land dispute. Through deferring maintenance, making cuts, refinancing debt and selling several hundred acres of land to The Rockefeller Group, the authority has been able to pay off its debt and add cash necessary to start work on several of capital projects.
Part of that land is being used to build a new distribution hub for FedEx Ground.
The airport also has recently completed work on a multimodal center that brings rental car companies closer to the terminal so customers don’t have to walk as far. It also brings in service from local buses that will allow employees and travelers easier access to ABE.
As he departs, ABE is working to complete a master plan that should be finished in the first quarter of 2018. “We’ve established a strategic framework here, where everyone knows what they are doing, they know what direction they are going in terms of vision and mission, and they are confident they can get there,” Everett says. “I am comfortable with where I am leaving the airport.”
The authority board last week announced that 22-year airport veteran Thomas Stout, currently director of operations and safety, will serve as interim director. The board also intends to hire an executive search firm to help find a permanent replacement for Everett.