Airport Director Bryant leaving county service

After 23 years at the local airport, manager Bob Bryant is leaving for a job in the private sector.

Bryant, 55, will retire from the Salisbury-Ocean City-Wicomico Regional Airport on Dec. 30 and begin his new position on Jan. 3.

He wouldn’t name the company he’ll be working for, since it hasn’t yet announced his hiring, but confirmed the position is in the airport industry. He will be working as liaison and with the Federal Aviation Administration.

“The company is based out of the area, so I won’t have to leave. For their travel to Washington, D.C., from where they are, they wanted a liaison who could make frequent visits to the airports and many of the state associations that they work with,” he said.

“What’s happening with the FAA and with the federal government is they are beginning to contract out a lot of work that the federal government used to do exclusively,” he explained.

The new company, he said, has “numerous contracts with the FAA in maintaining data, training of not only FAA but other state organizations and their personnel and client training in the products this company offers.”

“It’s going to be an interesting change and one that still keeps me in the airport side of the aviation industry,” Bryant said.

Although he wasn’t looking for a different career, he received a call from an old friend he once worked with in New Orleans, telling him about the opportunity and asking if he knew anyone who might be interested.

“By the end of the conversation I said, ‘I might be,’” he told the Salisbury Independent.

“I’ve taken enormous pride in everything that we’ve done here at the airport, especially under the heavy economic realities in this industry,” he said.

County officials will hire Bryant’s replacement and the position is already being advertised, at an annual salary of $56,657 to $80,000, according to the county’s Human Resources Department.

Bryant’s annual salary is $90,299.

“I have loved the 23 years I’ve been the airport manager here,” Bryant said.

“I have poured my heart and soul into this position. My wife, Lisa, and I were reflecting on last 23 years. I never took a winter vacation because it might snow the week we were gone and all hell would break loose. There have been sacrifices, just like there are sacrifices in any position,” he said.

Bryant, a native of Chicago, and his wife have three children, all who grew up on Delmarva.

The county’s airport has a bright future, he said, with Piedmont Airlines planning to transition props to jets and a planned runway expansion.

He is pleased County Executive Bob Culver has economic development plans for the airport, he said, and realizes his replacement will face challenges.

Culver, in a new release issued Tuesday announcing Bryant’s retirement, said he is “appreciative of the service rendered by Bob to the citizens of Wicomico County and wish him well in his retirement.”

The annual budget for the airport is $1.2 million and there are six full-time and three part-time employees. Some of those positions are currently vacant.

Certainly there have been unforgettable moments in Bryant’s career at the airport, but he doesn’t consider President-elect Donald Trump’s jet flying into Salisbury in April among them.

“Not really. That was cool, but it was operational. We’ve had big aircraft in here before. The emotional separation from the employees is going to be the toughest and most memorable,” he said.

“Leaving the people I have been associated with, that’s going to be a killer leaving them.”

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