SRQ chief Rick Piccolo gets rave reviews from airport authority

MANATEE -- SRQ President and CEO Rick Piccolo has survived another turbulent year.

The head man for Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport for the past 15 years saw rave performance reviews from his board during a special workshop today, garnering 299 out of 300 possible points available through the Airport Authority's grading system.

Airport Authority members praised Piccolo's response efforts after the airport was notified in January it would lose one of its top carriers when AirTran pulls out of the market in August.

Since then, SRQ has added a new carrier while several existing airlines added major daily flights to markets like New York and Chicago. Those additions recaptured nearly 90 percent of the total seats lost through AirTran, which accounted for one-third of the small airport's total passenger load in 2011.

Piccolo also escaped from a spring that drew questions about his hiring of the airport's Police Chief Jim Carlino, who's under state review for whether a proper background check was given prior to his first day on the job.

But that situation never came up during discussion of Piccolo's performance today.

The investigation was cleared by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which reviewed the case and sent a letter to airport officials earlier this month stating all proper rules had been followed in Carlino's hiring.

In their reviews, Airport Authority board members instead stressed Piccolo maintained a strong public image for the airport, fostered business development and ran a tight financial budget through another trying year.

"It's been challenging since (the AirTran ) decision," Piccolo said. "But I think we're making positive progress, especially for an airport of our size living in the shadows of larger markets."

Check through the day for more on this story and updates from the regular board meeting this afternoon.