MANATEE -- Sarasota-Manatee Airport Authority has a new board member representing Sarasota County with an interest in airport security.
John T. Stafford was sworn into office Monday for a four-year term through Nov. 17, 2016. He was also elected secretary of the board. The airport authority governs decisions and manages the budget for the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport Authority.
Stafford, 66, is chairman of the board for FCCI Insurance Group in University Park, where several of his employees support the airport through business use.
As part of his job, Stafford said he usually flies through SRQ about once a week. He has done so for the last 14 years. Passing through so many security checkpoints, he said he is interested in the new security measures as well as finding ways to help support SRQ.
"I'm interested in helping the airport and increasing recognition and ridership," Stafford said before the meeting.
Airport president and chief executive officer Frederick "Rick" Piccolo welcomes Stafford's addition to the board and his frequent use of SRQ.
"I'm looking forward to him joining us," Piccolo said. "I think he will be a great addition."
His interest was quickly put to the test at Monday's meeting during a discussion about continuing an applica
tion for privatized security and opting out of TSA coverage. While Stafford said he was still trying to get caught up on the privatization issue, he shared his experiences of going through security lines to catch his Delta flight at SRQ.
"I've been at this airport at times when they had one line opening for security screening. Now that they got the fast check that works extremely well," Stafford said about the new pre-check authorization lines for frequent travelers. "Prior to that, I've had good experiences and bad experiences in this airport."
He said he needs to get to know more about the operations, but from what the everyday traveler sees, staffing could be a concern.
"At certain times, I don't know if it's a lack of staffing, I do see some people standing around with TSA uniforms on, and they got one line open and Delta in the morning flies a big flight out of here, so it gets backed up," Stafford said. "So you can't come to the airport an hour early when you come on those flights."
He said about 200 people from FCCI use SRQ. He hopes other businesses will embrace the airport, as well.
"I think it's important that local businesses support it, and local individuals support it more than they do now," Stafford said. "My heart is with this airport. I want to see more utilization to help that."
Gov. Rick Scott appointed Stafford Oct. 3 to fulfill the Sarasota County seat by outgoing member Dr. Gary Kompothecras, the founder of lawyer/doctor referral service 1-800-ASK-GARY.
Stafford also serves on the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office Advisory Board. He previously served on the Suncoast Offshore Powerboat Racing Association, the Suncoast Foundation for Handicapped Children and the Shriners Hospitals of North America Investment Board.
In other moves, the board elected Manatee County representative Jack Rynerson as chairman and Sarasota County representative Dr. Peter Wish as vice-chairman. The board alternates the chairman and vice chairman position between Sarasota and Manatee counties each year.
Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.