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story.lead_photo.caption Ron Mathieu, executive director at the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, is shown in this file photo.

Ron Mathieu is stepping down as executive director of Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field to take a similar post at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport in Alabama.

Mathieu's resignation is effective May 31 and he assumes the position as chief executive officer in Birmingham effective June 17. He has been at Clinton National, the state's largest airport, since 2006 and has headed it since 2008.

The announcement came less than two months after the Little Rock Municipal Airport Commission gave him a favorable annual review and a 3% raise to boost his annual salary to $235,994.65 and in line with previous raises.

Mathieu, one of only four Little Rock employees whose salaries exceed $200,000, also received a $45,000 bonus and contributions equal to 2.5% of his salary to his two retirement accounts.

In an interview, the 56-year-old Mathieu said he wasn't unhappy at Clinton National but accepted what he said was a "incredible opportunity and offer."

"What they'd like for me to do in Birmingham is basically what I did in Little Rock," he said.

Mathieu said he likes to believe he is leaving Clinton National in a better position than when he arrived. The airport is debt free and has $60 million in the bank even as it has embarked on a $100 million terminal improvement program over several years.

That will be underscored at Tuesday's commission meeting when it is expected to be announced that the airport will be receiving more than $10 million in federal and state grants.

"We are extremely appreciative of Ron's service," said Jesse Mason, the commission chairman. "The commission and staff will sorely miss his leadership that has led to the biggest transformation in our airport's history.

"During Ron's 13 years in Little Rock, the airport has become debt free while undergoing nearly $100 million in terminal improvements, increased passenger satisfaction levels, expanded aviation manufacturing and generated billions of dollars in economic impact."

Also at Tuesday's meeting, the commission likely will take steps to select an interim director while a search for Mathieu's permanent replacement begins.

Mathieu noted similarities in the Little Rock and Birmingham airports. Both are the state's largest and centrally located.

The Birmingham airport is slightly busier, with 2.9 million passengers going through the airport last year compared with about 2 million at Clinton National.

But the Birmingham airport has $100 million in debt and operates under an agreement with the six airlines that operate at the airport. Clinton National operated under a similar agreement, which give airlines a share of the airport revenue. Mathieu was able to drop the arrangement at Clinton National, which now keeps all of its revenue.

"Ron brings a wealth of knowledge to this role," said Chris Johnson, a member of the Birmingham Airport Authority and its selection committee chairman. "He rose to the top of our candidate list with his strong financial, operations and administrative work for other national and regional airports."

Mathieu replaces Al Denson, who retired in January 2018 after 17 years at the helm of the airport. Altogether, Denson was employed 34 years at the airport.

Denson had a base salary of $398,549 plus bonuses, according to al.com, the online news organization. Mathieu's salary at Birmingham wasn't immediately available.

Before arriving at Clinton National, Mathieu held leadership positions at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport and Newark International, LaGuardia and JFK International airports -- operated by the New York Port Authority.

Mathieu holds a bachelor's degree in aviation management from the Florida Institute of Technology. He is a certified member of the American Association of Airport Executives. A private pilot, he is also a board member of the International Association of Airport Executives.

On a personal level, the move comes as Mathieu and his wife, Yasmine, were contemplating lives as empty-nesters. They had sold their Little Rock home in September and were living in an apartment, contemplating building a smaller, single-level home, Mathieu said.

"We will be closer to the beach," he said. "My wife always wanted to live on the beach."

"It is one of these unique opportunities that comes along that you really need to time and listen to," he said. "You don't know. I've declined opportunities in the past. But this one was just so unique and so interesting and it really addressed some of the long term ideals that my wife and I had."

A Section on 05/17/2019

Print Headline: Top exec at Little Rock airport taking job in Alabama

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Comments

  • MaxCady
    May 17, 2019 at 11:05 a.m.

    I hate to be a spoil sport for you and your wife, Ron, but living in BHam you'll still be about 3 1/2-4 hours from the beach, depending on the traffic especially on weekends when everybody and their neighbor is headed to Gulf Shores/Orange Beach.

  • GeneralMac
    May 17, 2019 at 4:50 p.m.

    What a poorly written article !

    EXAMPLE........" the Birmingham airport is slightly busier"

    SLIGHTLY ?

    In passenger numbers it has nearly a MILLION more passengers a year.

    In percentages, it has nearly 50% more passengers a year.

    Here is a perfect example of what Trump labels as FAKE news.

    By using the word " SLIGHTLY" , Noel Oman adds a SLANT to the story that is just NOT accurate.

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