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Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014
Joe Henderson

Henderson: Lopano’s salary keeps flying up, up, up

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Joe Lopano just received his third raise in less than two years from his bosses at the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority. His base pay jumps 5 percent to $330,750 on Oct. 1, and I just know we’re all thrilled for him.

That is $80,750 in raises since Lopano came to Tampa International Airport as chief executive officer in January 2011. There is also a $525,000 retention bonus for Lopano if he stays five years, which begs the question of why the board felt it necessary to give him another salary bump just now.

I mean, it’s not like he has a lot of incentive to leave.

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It’s worth recalling the words of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who also sits on the aviation board, when the group came up with that bonus plan last April.

“All we are doing is paying for potential. If I were Joe, I’d let my performance speak for itself and then bring it up when his contract is due,” Buckhorn said then.

Buckhorn voted against that bonus, but he did give his official okee-dokey to this hike.

The board also voted to consider restructuring its performance evaluations for Lopano’s position. Members want specific language and goals about what the CEO is supposed to accomplish.

It’s a good idea. It would have been even better to have had that criteria in place before he received three raises based on meeting benchmarks like “responsible for exploring growth strategies.”

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Now, there is no evidence Lopano has been offered even more dough by an even-more-generous rival airport authority.

We can’t be too careful, though, so I think the board needs a committee to explore ways to raise the coins for Lopano’s next salary hike. I’m guessing that will be around Thanksgiving. There is no time to waste.

Maybe the board could charge dedicated landing fees, called the Joe Fund, for each arrival at TIA.

The airport’s restrooms are finalists in a national best restroom contest, and it can’t be cheap to keep them that clean. Two words: pay toilets. The money, of course, would go to Joe.

Those tram rides from the terminal to the airsides?

Cha-ching!

Security lines?

Cha-ching!

Since most airlines charge fees for checked bagged, they can slap on a little surcharge before passengers are allowed to pick up their suitcases at the Lopano Baggage Carousel.

It can’t be easy running a big airport, and Lopano deserves a decent wage. Maybe he even deserves perks like his car allowance, or the 33 days paid vacation, or the retirement plan, or the health benefits. Heck, luring Copa Airlines here should be worth a Mercedes-Benz all by itself.

I liked bringing in Edelweiss Airlines with service to Zurich. Lopano’s vision of trying to open up South American markets with direct flights is spot-on.

Board members thought so too, repeatedly.

I just thought that was the job he was hired to do in the first place.

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