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New TIA director will receive $250,000 in annual salary

Tampa International Airport officially has a new boss.

Airport board members on Thursday hired Joseph W. Lopano, the top marketing executive at Dallas-Fort Worth International, to replace former executive director Louis Miller.

Lopano was picked as the top candidate last week. All that was left to do was work out the details of his contract.

Lopano, 55, will make a $250,000 annual salary. That's nearly $13,000 less than he earns as executive vice president for marketing and terminal management at DFW, but only slightly below the $253,950 Miller made after nearly 14 years at TIA. He will start work Jan. 1.

In an interview from DFW, Lopano praised Tampa International's customer service and low costs for airlines. He doesn't expect to make changes immediately after hitting the ground.

"I'd like to take a good look at the overall picture," he said.

The board approved the three-year contract by a 4-1 vote, with only Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan opposed. He was happy with Lopano but couldn't stomach the salary.

"It's hard to rationalize paying someone a quarter of a million dollars in this economic environment," Hagan said outside the board meeting. "It's close to what the former executive director made after 14 years."

Like Miller, Lopano will receive a $49,000 annual retirement fund contribution and either use of an airport-owned vehicle or a $500 monthly allowance for using his own car.

The overall compensation is $47,000 below what he receives from DFW. His deal there included an additional retirement contribution, a bonus for not using all his sick leave and a performance bonus.

The contract addresses what happens if he doesn't work out. Unlike Miller's contract, the document spells out reasons for firing him "for cause." Most are obvious: criminal convictions, fraud or theft of airport funds and habitual substance abuse.

But they also include violating the state's code of ethics for public officials and "willful and continued failure" to perform his duties after 30 days' notice.

Miller, 62, resigned this year after friction with some board members. They criticized him for making plans to demolish an old reservations center without telling them. He also took heat for letting a staff committee that reviewed contract proposals violate the state's open meetings law.

Last month, Miller landed the top job at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, the world's busiest airport.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

New TIA director will receive $250,000 in annual salary 10/07/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 8, 2010 8:05am]

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