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Michele Routh

New Position: Community relations director, St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, Clearwater

Previous Position: Consultant, St. Petersburg College, Pinellas Park

Michele Routh has taken her new job as community relations director at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport by storm.

"Unfortunately, Charley, Frances and Ivan have made my first month atypical," she said. "I've been in a dark room for a while because we have plywood up. I really haven't had a typical day yet."

Once those typical days begin, Routh said her responsibilities include a wide range of communication roles. She will begin working to improve the airport's Web site while continuing to oversee news releases and media relations, and working with community organizations and various government agencies.

Routh also will have input into ongoing improvements at the airport. Since the terminal building dates back to the 1950s, Routh said, there are cosmetic changes under way, such as making ticket counters for the airport's nine carriers "more fun."

Routh also said she is planning an October celebration to honor the airport's best year in terms of passenger traffic, topping the current record of more than 1.86-million in 1995. "We hope to break that by the end of September," she said. Routh is almost a St. Petersburg native; her family moved here when she was 6 months old.

A 1980 graduate of St. Petersburg High School, Routh earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Florida in 1984 and a master's degree in public administration from the University of South Florida in 1992.

While working on her master's degree, Routh was offered a chance to intern with the city of St. Pete Beach. The position quickly became full time, and she worked as budget director and later as assistant city manager.

After five years, in 1995, she left to take a position with Hillsborough County as revenue manager. The following year, she joined the city of St. Petersburg in human resources and then became involved in economic development. In 1998, she took on a unique project as the executive director of the Pinellas County Millennium Celebration, a cooperative project between the Pinellas County government and St. Petersburg College. "It was one of my favorite positions," she said.

When that project ended in 2000, she was hired by St. Petersburg College for special projects, events and grants programs. Routh also helped launch planning for the dual celebration in 2002 of St. Petersburg's 100/300 Anniversary Celebration with Russia, in partnership with its city of St. Petersburg.

Since coming to St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, Routh said she was not prepared "for how magical it is. You come in and there's someone hugging someone else goodbye or in celebration.

"It's a magical atmosphere where people are seeing each other for the first time in a long time or parting ways," she said. "I get to see that regularly every time I walk out of my office."

Routh said she enjoys the community interaction she has in her new position. "It's a fast-paced atmosphere. I like being part of a place that is so focused on customer relations."

Routh is vice president of the executive board of Studio620, a new visual and performing arts center scheduled to open at 620 First Ave. S in St. Petersburg. She also is on the advisory board of this year's Tony Jannus Aviation Awards.

Routh, 41, and her husband, Shay, have two children: Cassidy, 11, and Jake, 6. They live in St. Petersburg. She said the family often takes adventure travel vacations, most recently to the Grand Canyon and the Southwest, where they hiked and took a day trip down the Colorado River.

Routh added that working at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport is in no way like the new TV series, LAX, based on two airport directors at Los Angeles International Airport. Laughing, she said that unlike series star Heather Locklear, "they don't let me drive my car on the runway."