Fredericks Out As Ontario Airport CEO

Sixteen months into Kelly Frederick’s tenure as the chief executive officer at Ontario International Airport he has been forced out, felled by his resistance to the politically driven priorities of the airport authority’s board members.
In December 2015, the cities of Los Angeles and Ontario closed
a deal to return Ontario International Airport to what is essentially the control of Ontario after the megalopolis to the west had been managing the aerodrome for a half century and held title to it for more than three decades.
Roughly a month later, Ontario lured Fredericks, the president and CEO of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation and the de facto executive director of the T.F. Green Airport in Providence, Rhode Island, to guide the city in its transition to ownership and operation of Ontario International. Fredericks officially began as Ontario Airport CEO in March 2016. He acknowledged he spent the first two months in Southern California getting oriented.
Beginning in 2011, Ontario’s civic leaders had launched what became an increasingly strident and acrimonious campaign to take the airport back from Los Angeles, a primary feature of which was a heavy personal attack on Gina Marie Lindsay, the executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, the corporate entity Los Angeles used to run its Department of Airports. Well prior to the City of Los Angeles capitulating and agreeing to return the airport to the city that bears its name, Ontario officials through a series of backroom maneuvers that were made public after the fact arranged for the creation of the Ontario International Airport Authority, which was meant to exist ostensibly as a regional joint powers authority but which in actuality is an extension of Ontario. Installed as two of its board members were Ontario City Council members Alan Wapner and Jim Bowman. A third member was Greg Devereaux, at that point San Bernardino County’s chief executive officer. Formerly, Devereaux had been Ontario city manager, and he maintained ties with the city.
In August, the Ontario International Authority board consented to hiring Mark Thorpe, who had previously worked on aviation service expansion at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and with Los Angeles World Airports, to serve as Ontario Airport’s chief development officer.
On November 2, 2016, the management switchover at Ontario International Airport from Los Angeles World Airports to the Ontario International Airport Authority was effectuated.
Fredericks was in some measure fixated upon transforming the airport into a truly international facility, and had made progress in expanding the number of flights to and from Mexico and establishing Ontario as a destination for Chinese commercial flights, having brokered a deal with a Chinese charter company to fly into the airport.
As Ontario International came to be fully under the control of Ontario and its political leaders, pressure escalated to free up the expanse of land surrounding the airport, which is considered to be a part of the airport’s footprint by virtue of ownership rights and control. At present, the lion’s share of that property is not being used for what is considered to be strictly-aviation related purposes but rather as a buffer. The elected officials on the board, as well as their elected colleagues, who are the recipients of largesse from developmental interests in terms of funding for their political campaigns, have been repeatedly importuned by those individuals and corporations bankrolling their political careers to free up the property so they can profiteer by acquiring it and converting it to either commercial or industrial use.
In their effort to please their campaign donors, the Ontario International Airport Authority’s board members have seized upon the representation that such development will represent economic growth.
Fredericks, however, considers the stampede to develop the property at the airport’s periphery a shortsighted stratagem that will perhaps provide an immediate shot in the arm for Ontario economically but which will be relatively short lived and will ultimately prove detrimental with regard to any future aviation-related expansion at the airport.
The differences between Fredericks and his political masters on the board were becoming increasingly evident as Fredericks dragged his feet in finalizing a master plan for the airport that would have included cataloging more than 200 acres in the immediate vicinity of the airport as surplus property to be actuated for sale in relatively short order.
Perceiving Fredericks as an obstructionist, the board as early as April began to send signals it was growing disenchanted with his leadership, while simultaneously waiting for him to conform his leadership with the board’s vision. When he did not, an effort to move him out as CEO began. One issue is his contract, a five-year compact guaranteeing him a minimal annual salary of $398,500.
On June 17, Frederick’s death knell sounded when the authority held a special closed door Saturday session, an almost unheard of event, in addition to its regularly scheduled meeting earlier that week at which the single, and signal, issue on the agenda to be addressed was Frederick’s performance evaluation.
This week, On July 5, the board held yet another closed-door session. Membership on the board has dwindled to four in the aftermath of Greg Devereaux’s exodus as the county chief executive officer four months ago. Emerging from that meeting of four, it was announced that Fredericks would no longer be running the airport, effective immediately. Wapner, as the president of the board, put out a prepared statement.
“Today Kelly J. Fredericks stepped down as the chief executive officer of the Ontario International Authority,” the statement attributed to Wapner said. “Both the commissioners and Kelly acknowledge that their approaches to the direction and management of Ontario International Airport Authority differ and that it would be mutually beneficial to part ways as Ontario International Airport Authority moves to the next phase of the airport’s development.
“On behalf of the OIAA, I commend Kelly for his leadership in successfully transitioning Ontario International Airport to local control,” Wapner continued. “During more than 16 months at the helm, Kelly and his team made significant progress in furthering our mission to make Ontario International Airport one of the most competitive, efficient, innovative and customer-friendly passenger, cargo and business airports in the United States. The airport is a key economic engine for the Inland Empire and Southern California, and plays a critical role in meeting the air transportation demands of one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. We thank Kelly for his service and wish him well in his future endeavors.”
With Devereaux’s conspicuous absence from the Ontario International Airport Authority Board and his departure as the county’s CEO, there have been recurrent hints that the board is considering hiring him to replace Fredericks.   –Mark Gutglueck

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