MANCHESTER, N.H. – On Tuesday night the Manchester Board of Aldermen approved Mayor Joyce Craig’s nomination of Theodore Kitchens to become Manchester-Boston Regional Airport’s new director, following a spirited discussion over the future of the airport and divergent human resource philosophies.
Kitchens comes from a position as general manager of George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, a role he held since January 2016.
Prior to that, Kitchens held roles at airports in Virginia and Atlanta as well as experience conducting engineering studies at airports across the country.
Supporters of Kitchens discussed his insight on ideas for improvement at the airport, with Ward 12 Alderman Keith Hirschmann providing a glowing review of the hour he spent talking with Kitchens.
“I looked at his resume, but we didn’t even talk about his resume, he was that good of a candidate,” said Hirschmann.
Opposition to the nomination stemmed largely from several aldermen preferring that promotion of department heads should come from within.
Ward 9 Alderman Barbara Shaw voiced this opinion in the hope of maintaining stability through continuity, while Alderman-at-Large Dan O’Neill and Alderman-at-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur supported Interim Airport Director Thomas Malafronte, one of the finalists for the position.
Levasseur used his own business as a metaphor, indicating that he believes employees with tenure deserve leeway.
“I relish and praise those who have worked for me the longest,” he said. “Over the long haul, they’ve been there when you need them,” Levasseur said.
In addition to his longevity, Levasseur praised Malafronte’s qualifications, ranging from a pilot’s license and his beginnings at the airport as a baggage handler, to his years of experience at the airport where he filled multiple roles as needed.
Contrasting that view, Levasseur scorned Kitchens, indicating during a harangue toward Mayor Craig that he did not bother to talk with Kitchens during the vetting process for the new director.
Levasseur cited the fact that Kitchens has held three positions in the last nine years and his lack of experience at airports with winter climates as a red flag.
Hirschmann challenged Levasseur’s statement, citing that two of the jobs came in Houston, where he was promoted to general manager of the airport within six months of his arrival after a stint as assistant director of planning and programming.
Ward 3 Alderman Tim Baines also followed Levasseur’s comments by supporting Kitchens, echoing Levasseur’s viewpoints as a business owner through a different lens.
“I also like to promote from within at my business, but sometimes it’s good to bring outside perspectives,” said Baines. “With the decline our airport has seen, it is time for a new person.”
Hirschmann and Baines voted in favor of the mayor’s nomination of Kitchens along with Ward 7 Alderman William Shea, Ward 8 Alderman John Cataldo, Ward 4 Alderman Chris Hebert, Ward 2 Alderman Will Stewart and Ward 1 Alderman Kevin Cavanaugh.
Levasseur and O’Neil were joined in the opposition by Ward 5 Alderman Tony Sapienza, Ward 6 Alderman Elizabeth Moreau, Ward 9 Alderman Barbara Shaw and Ward 10 Alderman Bill Barry.
Ward 11 Alderman Normand Gamache was absent.
Following the motion, Levasseur made another motion to make the decision a unanimous decision of the board, which passed.