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Officials Name Interim Airport Director, Form Search Committee

By Cece Nunn and Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Jun 11, 2021
ILM's Deputy Airport Director Gary Broughton will take on the interim director role in July, as Julie Wilsey exits the role, a decision made by the airport authority this week. (File photo)
Gary Broughton, Wilmington International Airport's deputy director, will take the helm at ILM as a result of the current director's upcoming departure, officials said Friday.

The New Hanover County Airport Authority has formed a search committee to hire a new chief, following its vote this week to opt out of current airport director Julie Wilsey's employment agreement, with 30-days notice.

The notice was effective Wednesday, officials said.

Broughton, who is slated to retire from ILM on Dec. 31, is expected to become interim airport director July 9.

Broughton on Friday extended his retirement date from the original date of Sept. 1.

He said in an email Friday that his retirement was planned and announced last week during the airport authority's regular monthly meeting.

"At this time, no action has been taken by the board on the deputy director replacement," New Hanover County Airport Authority Chair Donna Girardot said in an email Friday.

For Wilsey, a five-year employment agreement amendment from May 2018 dates her employment contract to run until April 30, 2023, with the option for renewal for an additional five-year term, according to the agreement provided by Girardot.

The employment agreement at the time noted her base salary of $210,000 as of January 2018. According to recent records provided by Girardot, Wilsey's current salary is just over $230,400.

Wilsey did not respond to requests for comment this week.

An involuntary termination portion of the agreement states that the airport authority, in its discretion, can terminate the employment of Wilsey upon 30 days written notice, and in that event, the airport will pay Wilsey a termination benefit equal to 100% of her annual base salary and benefits over a 12-month period.

The major leadership changes to ILM come amid an ongoing recovery from the historical impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, on top of a $61 million project to expand and renovate the airport's terminal.

Wilsey and Broughton helped the airport navigate through the pandemic impacts, which hit the airline industry and airports nationwide early last year. Travel took a big hit in April with peaks and dips throughout 2020. This year, however, travel at ILM has slowly trended up for the most part.

ILM also landed $19.8 million in federal funding from the CARES Act to support operations at the airport through the pandemic.

The leaders oversaw the continuation of the airport's $61 million terminal expansion and renovation project and pushed the project forward during the pandemic. The terminal project, which started in 2018, is now in its third phase with completion anticipated in 2022.

While officials on Thursday did not comment further on the leadership situation, some did recognize Wilsey's impact on ILM.

Harry Stovall, airport authority vice chair, said in an email Friday, "I will say that Julie Wilsey has been an outstanding long-time public servant. Having served on this Authority for twelve years with Julie, with her as either Deputy Director or Director, I can say that the Airport and the citizens of New Hanover County are far better off because of her service."

New Hanover County owns the land where the airport is and the airport authority leases and manages the airport. The county does not support the airport from a budgetary perspective, other than to issue debt for the authority, and then the authority pays the county for the debt service each year, said Jessica Loeper, county spokeswoman.

The seven-member airport authority is appointed by the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners.

On Friday, Commissioner Rob Zapple noted Wilsey's contributions.

Zapple said, "I think that Director Wilsey has done a terrific job for our community over the past 22 years that she has worked for ILM."
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