New TIA Director Joe Lopano is serious as he dismisses Trudy Carson

As the St. Pete Times Steve Huettel puts it in his story today, "Some critics of the airport's meager roster of nonstop international and Carribbean flights questioned her effectiveness." That's putting in mildly, though some of those critics who CL has reached out to do not want to go on record in terms of evaluating her performance.  Let's just say that they don't disagree with Lopano's assessment.

When he took over the job two months ago, Lopano said at the time that he would immediately begin an evaluation of the agency’s senior staff and review its procurement procedures.

CL met with both Carson and Louis Miller back in December of 2009, as we wrote a piece on the criticism for the lack of direct international flights - a criticism that was met essentially with indifference by Miller until board member Steve Burton began asserting himself at that same time.

You may recall that Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio expressed initial anger at Burton for his actions and strongly defended Miller. But as more press reports surfaced on some of Miller's imperial ways at TIA, the Mayor backed off on her support, leading Miller to up and quit his job in February of 2010, though he has landed on his feet nicely, now managing Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International.

Tampa's International Airport has been christened as a crown jewel in the Tampa Bay area, and is annually ranked at the top in publications listing America's top airports.  But critics say it could be so much more than it it right now, and expressed frustration with Louis Miller for years for losing out on those direct international flights.  Miller would counter that it was all about supply and demand, and that demand wasn't there for a major carrier to come in and spend money on flights that would only be half filled with passengers.

Although some casual observers thought it was perhaps tragic how Miller ended up moving on, some of those critics say they feel heartened by the changes that Lopano is making.

It was reported on Monday that  Tampa International Airport chief executive Joe Lopano had fired Trudy Carson, the airport's longstanding director of air service development.

According to published reports, Lopano's letter informing Carson of her termination included these passages:

"it has become apparent that you are not a good match for the new organization we are currently putting together...I have been dissatisfied with your performance and attention to detail in several areas within the air service development area," the letter stated.

Lopano cited Carson's overall strategy for air service development and issues involving Carson's handling of meetings with JetBlue and marketing efforts with Condor Airlines.

"While there are other areas in which I am dissatisfied, it would serve no purpose to expand on them in this letter."

That harsh critique came as Lopano observed Carson in action over the past two and a half months, as he officially took over as CEO at Tampa International just in January, after being hired in late September as the permanent replacement to Louis Miller, who quit his position after 14 years at the helm a little over a year ago.

Carson was Miller's point person on trying to attract direct international flights to Tampa, which had decreased in number considerably from the time she took the job some 14 years ago.

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