Not only is it a bad idea. It’s a monumentally stupid idea for the Charleston County Aviation Authority to hire the chairman of county council, Elliott Summey, as the agency’s next executive director. At a salary of $290,000. For a job for which he has zero experience.
By comparison, the general manager of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, known as the busiest airport in the world with more than 100 million passengers, took over in 2018 for $280,000 annually. He is an industry professional, having helped to manage a major New York airport before heading to Atlanta.
Charleston International Airport is less than 5 percent of the size of Atlanta’s airport. Summey, a dyspeptic braggart who pushes around his weight and ego to get his way, has zero airport management experience.
Taxpayers and airport patrons are rightly outraged to the hilt. Rather than getting a professional who knows how to grow and run an airport, they’re going to get a stuffed-shirt politician with a temper.
Anyone with a lick of common sense should be questioning the process of naming Summey, a member of the Aviation Authority by virtue of his position on County Council, as the next director. Perhaps more appropriate would be for another branch of government, the state grand jury, to open an investigation into the whole, smarmy mess of conflict piled upon conflict.
Summey is the son of North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey. His colleague on County Council is Teddie Pryor, who works for the mayor and whose brother Spencer started work as as spokesman at the agency after retiring from the police department in North Charleston. For anyone to claim Elliott Summey didn’t get the job because of his last name, good-old-boyism, political insiders, and nepotism is smoking something illegal in the state of South Carolina.
And if the cronyism isn’t bad enough, just look at Summey’s lackluster leadership record. Unlike his father, who has steered North Charleston into becoming a business engine of the Lowcountry, the son oversaw the county’s costly rescue of the Naval Hospital by paying $33 million to acquire it after North Charleston originally bought it for $2 million and sold it to developers for $5 million. Net loss: $28 million. Since then, more developers have become involved and purchased the building for something like $10 million (yes, the deal on a public building was done by Council in secret), but that’s still operating at a whopping loss.
As councilman, Summey has supported extending Interstate 526 for years. It’s still on the drawing board. He’s been involved with a delayed recycling center moved to, yes, North Charleston. And he has pushed using half-cent sales tax revenue for purposes for which it wasn’t intended.
Bottom line: If you think Elliott Summey’s Grade-C level of leadership is what the airport needs to move forward, we’ve got some swampland in Florida to sell you. Dump him and get a real airport exec. At a minimum, he needs to resign from County Council today.