After 11 months as acting aviation director and 20 years in a variety of posts overseeing operations and facilities at Philadelphia International Airport, Mark E. Gale was named chief executive officer yesterday of the city's Division of Aviation.
"After a national search, and interviewing a variety of impressive candidates, it became very clear to me that Mark is the best in the business," Mayor Nutter said, standing at the airport's new, free cell-phone waiting lot on its opening day.
Gale, 47, had been acting aviation director since January, when Charles J. Isdell retired.
The airport CEO title is new, and with it comes a higher salary, $200,000, to be paid out of airport funds, and not general taxes, the city said. The former aviation director's post paid $160,000.
As part of the search, Nutter said, the city looked at salaries at the top 20 to 25 U.S. airports. "I can give you a half-dozen airports smaller than ours that pay more than we do," he said.
"Memphis, Baltimore, Tampa, Cincinnati, Boston, Cleveland. All those pay in excess of $200,000," said the mayor.
"So when we went out in a national market and advertised this job, for whomever was going to be successful, we decided that for the upgraded title of CEO, which is a new title at the airport, given our size and our growth, the salary is $200,000," Nutter said.
Gale, who grew up in Levittown and lives in the city's Fox Chase section, graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. In 1985, he worked as an intern in the Philadelphia Aviation Division, and joined the airport full-time in 1989.
From 1996 to 2000, Gale was airport operations manager. In 2001, as deputy director of aviation for operations and facilities, he supervised managers in security, safety, maintenance, information technology, engineering design, construction, emergency plans, grounds, and snow removal.
Gale also managed daily operations at Northeast Philadelphia Airport.
"Who says there's no Santa Claus!" Gale said, accepting the job. "I am both truly honored and grateful."
Philadelphia airport "must, and will, serve as an epicenter for consistently strong regional economic development and global connectivity," Gale told a crowd gathered for the ribbon cutting and debut of the cell-phone waiting lot.
"Nearly 600 flights depart here daily to some 120 domestic and international destinations," Gale said. "Over 22,000 men and women work right here at the airport, and literally tens of thousands derive their livelihoods working for businesses on, or near, the airport."
Nutter said as acting aviation director Gale had secured more than $32 million in federal stimulus funds for critical airport repairs and improvements, and had trimmed the Aviation Division overtime budgets "by half."
The mayor credited Gale with getting the cell-phone waiting lot built in record time, after a controversy in August when state police began ticketing motorists parked illegally on I-95 ramps, waiting for passengers.
A former cell-phone lot, owned by PennDot, was difficult to find because of poor signage. PennDot, which permitted the airport to use the lot, controlled the signs.
"Part of the reason we are here today is we want to get this lot open, available, and known before the heavy holiday travel season," Nutter said.
The 150-spot lot is on a paved portion of the old Route 291 highway on airport property that was closed to traffic last year.
The lot has lights and in January will have three electronic display boards with flight arrival information so waiting motorists "will have easy access to their parties' flight status," Nutter said.
But will people be able to find the new lot?
"That's one of our goals," the mayor said. "It's not only having it, but people knowing where it is. There will be enhanced and upgraded signage to help with that. We want everyone to know where this lot is."