For the Sanford Airport Authority’s Board of Directors, choosing a new president came down to a choice between a change agent or the status quo.

The board chose the status quo.

The board selected Diane Crews to replace retiring president and CEO Larry Dale. Crews has worked with Dale for the last 14 years.

A national search process had narrowed a field of 45 candidates down to a final four (See Story). On Monday board members individually interviewed each of the four finalist.

CrewsAfter public discussion about each of the four candidates, the board narrowed the field to Crews and Harman.

“He’s a change agent,” said board member Tom Green of Harman, Who currently is director of airports at Okaloosa County, Florida. Previously he had worked at airports in Miami, San Diego and New York City. Green noted that Harman had a strong strategic planning background that could benefit the airport for years to come.

Crews, said board member Tim Slattery early, struggle with outlining a vision for the airport beyond “fixing roofs and gutters.”

“There wasn’t any talk about developing international routes or free-trade zones,” said Slattery.

Board member Steve Smith disagreed.

“Diane has a good vision, and she will take her own path,” Smith said. “Plus she has the advantage of having the trust of the staff.”

Board member Clay Simmons said that while Crews had spent her entire airport career working for Dale, he believed she would develop an identity of her own.

“Diane is not going to be Larry Dale in a skirt,” said Simmons.

Board members debated the merits of the final two candidates, and at times the discussion became contentious.

At one point Dale made comments that bordered on slander regarding Harman.

Dale said Harman was not well respected in the industry, and hinted that there may have been negative information in Harman’s background.

Chairman Frank Ioppolo clarified that rumors that Harman had been fired from previous positions were refuted by his superiors at those jobs.

In the end, board members Smith, Simmons, Robbie Robertson, Jennifer Dane, Henry Bowlin and Bill Miller voted for Crews. Ioppolo, Slattery and Green voted for Harman.

Crews is currently the vice president of finance and administration for the Airport Authority, a position she has held since 2014. She was vice president of administration at the Saford airport for 13 years before moving into her current position.

Prior to joining the airport authority she worked for the city of Sanford for 11 years as a customer service representative, administrative assistant and city commission liaison.

– by Dan Ping

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