Two Paulding County Airport Authority members say the director’s position was moved from hourly to salaried because he already is working full-time hours and has brought more business to the county facility.
The authority recently renewed the contract for Terry Tibbitts, who is the Paulding County Airport Authority CEO and Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport director.
The renewal was for three years through June 2022 at a salary of about $135,000 annually rather than the hourly rate he formerly was paid.
Authority member Dan Nolan said Tibbitts “has been required to give more time consistently over the last year and was essentially working many weeks at full-time hours.”
“The board recognized that Mr. Tibbitts has been essentially performing as a full-time employee and he simply asked to be compensated for the time he was putting in,” Nolan said.
Tibbitts’ new contract pays him at the same hourly rate — $65 — his contract paid the past three years except without specifying payment “for hours actually worked.”
His 2016 through 2018 contracts stated “the parties” anticipated 24 to 28 hours per week “but recognize that circumstances may occasionally exist that require the employee to work more hours.”
Authority member Kerry Tidmore said the position’s workload has prompted Tibbitts to consistently use more than the 28 hours per week anticipated in 2016.
Tidmore, a pilot for FedEx, said he “couldn’t be happier with what has been done out there.”
He said Tibbitts has one staff member while other area airport directors have staffs of four or more. The airport authority would have a difficult time finding someone with Tibbitts’ experience in managing an airport and dealing with the FAA which regulates the nation's airports, Tidmore said.
“There’s nobody else standing in front of us who can do what Terry is doing,” he said.
The airport authority is operating on a $1.05 million budget this year. Tidmore said he did not foresee funding being a problem for Tibbitts’ salary, which is contingent on the budget having available funds.
Nolan said Tibbitts’ overall salary and benefits package “is very competitive to other airport directors with similar responsibilities.”
“We did not give him a raise. His hourly rate remains unchanged and he is simply working full time vs. part time,” Nolan said.
“He is working with only one admin/office person,” Nolan said. “I believe we are getting a pretty solid deal for the citizens of the county under this arrangement.”
Nolan said Tibbitts recently negotiated a deal for a private Gulfstream G650 corporate jet to be stored in the corporate hangar “that will bring significant tax revenues for the county,” Nolan said.
He said he believed Tibbitts “has been working very hard to responsibly manage our airport.”
“I see firsthand what he deals with and the improvements, development and required maintenance he is overseeing are vital to the mission of our regional airport.”
“He is integral to the process of bringing the (planned state aviation maintenance) school to the airport from a management, integration and compliance perspective,” Nolan said.
“Mr. Tibbitts and his very small team are working diligently to develop the airport into an economic driver for the county. These are all things he is currently doing, and in my opinion, doing well.
“I believe Mr. Tibbitts will make a long lasting impact at our airport and continues to be a valued director,” Nolan said.
Tibbitts is a Paulding native and a licensed pilot and airplane mechanic who worked in a longtime career as a research engineer at Georgia Tech. He also served as the director of the Electronic Systems Laboratory in the Georgia Tech Research Institute.
He was hired as interim director in 2016 and has worked on three annual contracts which paid him $65 per hour. His title was changed to airport director and authority CEO in July 2017.
Among the projects he sought or oversaw were more T-hangars for rental; a wildlife fence to keep animals such as deer from entering the runway; completion of the corporate hangar; addition of a flight school; and leases of the facility for special events and film productions.
He also dealt with budgets that included annual costs of $200,000 or more for attorneys to defend lawsuits related to the authority’s proposed commercialization of the airport, for which the FAA ended consideration after five years in 2018.
Tibbitts also worked on a project to add new airplane hangars, tie-downs and additional apron space to gain non-commercial revenue for the airport. The proposal was met with lawsuits over environmental concerns and alleged ties to the commercialization effort.
Critics on social media have said Tibbitts has not done enough to warrant the salary change, among other claims.