Three Kenton County Airport Board members resign

HEBRON, Ky. – Three Kenton County Airport Board members resigned Friday, including the chairman and vice chair.

Chairman Jim Huff, Vice Chairman Larry Savage and board member Mark Arnzen submitted letters of resignation to Kenton County Judge-Executive Steve Arlinghaus, effective immediately.

Following the resignations, Arlinghaus appointed Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III as chairman and Kathy F. Collins as vice chairman to succeed Huff and Savage. Chad Summe was appointed to replace Arnzen.

Huff and Savage did not elaborate on their resignations, but said in a joint statement they left for the same reason they joined the board: to make a positive impact on the board and their community.

“In keeping with our original commitment to the Greater Cincinnati Community, we have submitted… a joint letter of resignation to Judge-Executive Steve Arlinghaus and asked that our resignation take effect immediately,” Huff and Savage said in the statement. “It is our hope that our resignations will enable CVG to address the many challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”

Arnzen said he has worked very closely with Huff and Savage in the past and supports the reasons for their resignations at this time.

“Both Jim and Larry have devoted significant time, without pay, to the betterment of our airport,” Arnzen said. “Their decisions to move on will be a loss to both the airport and our community.”

Kris Knochelmann, who is running in May for Kenton County Judge-Executive against Arlinghaus, said Friday's resignations were handled incorrectly.

Knochelmann said usually the board votes on a new chair and vice chair, so it's unusual for a judge-executive to appoint those positions.

He said if he were handed those resignations, he would have asked the advisory board to step up until the state auditor's report was complete.

"I would have asked for resignations months ago," Knochelmann said. "The airport is a huge regional asset, an economic engine. It's a shining jewel of the community… It needs to be run in a professional, non-newsworthy manner."

Knochelmann called Arlinghaus' appointment of three new board members Friday “a political move.”

Arlinghaus was not available for comment on his decision.

Nathan Smith, an advisory board member since 2009, called for a shakeup of the organization in August , two days after a heated debate erupted over the possible dismissal of CVG CEO Candace McGraw.

“I would blow it up and start it all over,” Smith said in August. “It’s not set up correctly in today’s government environment for an airport.”

Cincinnati business leaders have long been frustrated by the Kenton County Airport Board because of continued shrinkage in the number of flight options from Hebron and a lack of decision-makers on the board who represent major users of air service.

Several local executives have left the board after one term due to its time commitments and frustration over its governance structure.

The original six-member board has expanded over the years "to give surrounding counties a greater voice in the operation of the airport," according to the CVG website. 

Cincinnati Business Committee Chairman Tom Williams called for restructuring of the Kenton County Airport Board in a 2011 speech, but the idea hasn't taken hold.

"The question is glaring as to whether this current board structure is most effective," Williams said in that 2011 speech to United Way fundraisers. That speech led to the formation of the Cintrifuse start-up initiative and a business-backed study of ways to attract new flight service options.

Robinson, the next chairman, served on the Kenton County Airport Board from 1998 to 2006. He was chairman of the board between 2004 and 2006.

Robinson is a lawyer of more than 40 years and a partner in the Cincinnati-based law firm of Frost Brown Todd, LLC. He has also served as chairman of the Cincinnati USA Partnership for Economic Development and is a co-founder of the Tri-County Economic Development Corporation. He has served 27 years on the Tri-ED Board as treasurer and executive committee member.

Robinson said he immediately accepted his appointment as chair "with enthusiasm."

“Judge Arlinghaus has done a superb job leading Kenton County forward during his tenure as judge-executive and I am honored that he has chosen me to serve as a member of his leadership team,” Robinson said.

Collins, the next vice chair, is a senior private banker at Fifth Third Bank and currently serves on the Kenton County Airport Board Advisory Committee.

Summe, who will replace Arnzen, lives in Fort Mitchell and has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics from the U.S. Naval Academy and his Master’s in Business Administration from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

Arlinghaus said he is sorry to see Huff, Savage and Arnzen go.

“Under their leadership, the airport has made great strides, including attracting two new low-cost carriers, overseeing a $100 million expansion of the DHL hub, growing the number of passengers at airport by 59,000 last year, and

much, much more," Arlinghaus said.

Board spokesperson Pat Crowley said he had no comment on the resignations. Smith also would not comment Friday.

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