Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Business

Good grades may mean another raise for Tampa International CEO Joe Lopano

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TAMPA — It's good to be Joe Lopano. But it may get a few thousand dollars better.

The CEO of Tampa International Airport, who makes $330,750 a year, could receive another raise this week.

If he were to receive the same 5 percent merit raise he got last year, Lopano would be in line for a $16,537 pay bump.

That's because Lopano's bosses at the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority recently gave him mostly glowing scores on his annual performance evaluation. They could propose a raise for the CEO when the board's August meeting is held Thursday.

"I think he's done an outstanding job on all counts," said board chairman Robert Watkins.

It was Watkins who proposed giving Lopano a 5 percent merit raise when he got good grades last year, and the board voted for it. But Watkins declined to say Monday if he'll propose a raise this year or for how much, saying the board should discuss it in public first.

In Lopano's three years and seven months on the job, TIA has expanded its international portfolio and now has nonstop routes to Cuba, Switzerland and most recently Panama, giving Tampa Bay its first direct flight to Latin America. In June, TIA added nonstop flights to Seattle.

Lopano also is overseeing a nearly $1 billion renovation and expansion of the airport by 2017.

The CEO was graded in 14 categories. In each one, he was evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. He received an average score based on that 1-to-5 scale. He also got a total score from each board member based on the sum of all 14 grades they gave him.

Lopano got an average score of 4.85 out of a maximum of 5 when he got last year's raise. This year's average score was 4.82.

In this year's evaluations, Lopano got perfect total scores of 70 from Watkins and board member Gary Harrod. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who also sits on the board, gave Lopano a total score of 68.

Lopano's lowest score this year came from Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist, who gave him a 62. He gave Lopano an average grade — 3 — in the areas of coordinating with trade associations and growing the airport's business portfolio.

But Crist said Monday that he doesn't have any problems with Lopano's performance.

"I don't give perfect scores," he said.

In fact, when Crist discussed his grades with Lopano last week, he said the CEO told him he had "no problem" with getting average grades from the county commissioner. Crist said that, to him, a 3 is still pretty good.

"That means he's meeting the expectations I have for the position and the person," Crist said. "But there are so many areas where he was excelling that I told him during the interview that this is probably one of the best performance reviews I've given anybody."

One complaint Crist shared with the Tampa Bay Times that wasn't in his performance evaluation was that Lopano could be more "transparent" in keeping the board informed about what's going on at TIA. Yet Crist also gave Lopano perfect scores in two categories judging how well the CEO communicates with the Aviation Authority board.

Only four board members graded the airport CEO because the fifth member abruptly resigned in May: Martin Garcia left after spending his 10 months on the board clashing with airport officials over funding projections and the TIA expansion plan. Garcia's replacement, East Hillsborough businessman Sam Rashid, will be sworn in Thursday.

If Lopano gets a raise on Thursday, it probably won't be as big a deal as his last couple of raises. In January 2012, after his first year, the Aviation Authority gave Lopano a $50,000 raise. Then in October of that year, the board also have him a merit raise of 5 percent, or $15,000.

Lopano also had three contract extensions to go with those two raises in a 20-month span. In September 2013, the board extended Lopano's contract to 2018 and set up a $500,000 bonus for him to collect if he continues to run the airport for the next five years.

The bonus was to give Lopano incentive to see TIA's expansion plan through to the end.

Contact Jamal Thalji at [email protected] or (813) 226-3404. Follow @jthalji.

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