The abrupt resignation this week of Martin Garcia leaves a big hole at a critical time for Tampa International Airport. Gov. Rick Scott needs to find a replacement to the five-member governing board who shares the airport's forward-looking vision and its growing role across the region.
Scott appointed Garcia in June to fill the vacancy left by the death of former board chairman Steve Burton. Burton played a key role in shaping the airport's ambitious new strategy, and that vision is coming into play only now, as TIA embarks on a billion-dollar expansion, reaches out for new domestic and international flights and lays the groundwork for new mass transit options that serve the Tampa Bay area. The next appointee needs to have the experience, skills and energy to contribute to an operation on the move, and the ethical awareness to understand the obligations TIA has as a public entity.
The airport will face many competing challenges in the coming years as it balances its need to grow with its larger public responsibility to be a source of local pride and an engine of regional growth. Though Joe Lopano has done well as chief executive, board members are supposed to bring a community perspective to the table that keeps operations sensitive to residents and taxpayers. Scott needs to choose a board member who understands that role and who sees the airport as an agent of first impressions. This is not the time or place for an appointee who wants to coast or trade on the office for personal gain.