Editorial: Sammons right for job

January 19, 2013

Staff Reports

http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2013/jan/19/editorial-sammons-right-for-job/

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Jack Sammons, a familiar name in Greater Memphis politics, has a new public role as chairman of the Memphis and Shelby County Airport Authority, and he's a good choice.

Now is a difficult time for Memphis International Airport. Its primary commercial carrier, Delta Air Lines, is cutting service. Memphis-based Pinnacle Airlines, just emerging from bankruptcy, may well have moved its headquarters out of town by the time Sammons gets settled in. Public criticism of the Airport Authority is shrill and ongoing.

And there is not much Sammons can do about any of that as chairman of the unpaid board.

The Airport Authority can jawbone and keep landing fees low, which it has done even as Delta has pulled out. It can hold public hearings and try to answer angry challenges to its competence on Facebook, which it also has done.

But it can't dictate which new carriers will begin service at the airport. It can't tell an airline how many flights to bring to Memphis or set ticket prices for them. And the Airport Authority can't tell FedEx how to manage its operations, even though FedEx is by far the airport's largest customer.

Against these realities, Sammons nonetheless is a good choice for the chairman's role. He is a well-spoken, well-connected veteran of local politics. He knows all of the players who are active in airport issues and gets along well with the mayors of Shelby County and Memphis.

Perhaps most important, Sammons has a record of taking on thorny problems and resolving them. He has been credited with saving the FedEx St. Jude Classic at a time when the golf tournament had lost its funding and was about to relocate.

He did it through hard work, tireless networking, and by painting a picture of a bright future ahead for the tournament in Memphis.

These same skills will serve him, and the Memphis airport, well.

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