Favorite

Turbulence at airport 

The filling of an airport job last week inadvertently exposed internal airport political friction.

Bottom line: Airport Director Ron Mathieu properly exercised his executive power but made a policymaker unhappy in the process. It might cause Mathieu long-term headaches.

Last week, gas industry PR man Mark Raines accepted, and then declined, a $125,000-a-year job as director of PR and government relations for Little Rock National Airport. He cited family concerns.

Friday, I was told by two sources that Airport Commissioner Thomas Schueck, a forceful industrialist, had made clear his unhappiness at Raines' selection. Schueck backed another finalist, former City Director Michael Keck. Shortly after, Raines decided not to take the job. Word got back to Schueck that he'd been a factor. He called Raines and tried to make things right, but Raines decided to stay put in the Fayetteville shale world

"My decision for not taking that job is just very personal. I'm not going to get into a lot of that hearsay," Raines told me. He said he had heard from Schueck Thursday and appreciated his call and thought highly of the airport and its leaders. "It was a nice thing for him to do. And I'll just leave it at that."

Schueck said that he'd said nothing unpleasant publicly or privately about Raines, though he admitted he'd had a difference of opinion with Mathieu on whether the choice would be solely Mathieu's to make (as Mathieu had announced from the beginning) or a Commission decision.

"It's absolutely untrue that I said anything to anybody. I was happy with him," Schueck said. Yes, he did call Raines because he wanted to correct any impression he'd spoken ill of Raines. "He was not my favorite. But you don't always get what you want. I thought he was a wonderful candidate and would have made a great employee," Schueck said. He said Raines told him he didn't think he could work at the airport if there was a split on the commission.

Then there was this. The same sources told me that Schueck was upset with Mathieu for not choosing his preferred candidate because he thought Mathieu owed him a favor. By one source's account, Schueck had made it possible — either through his own direct contribution or one he arranged — for $40,000 to be contributed to Little Rock Christian Academy so it would repay the airport for the controversial $40,000 in airport ad dollars Mathieu had directed to the private school for a new football field surface. The airport got a sideline ad for the money. The matter became hotly controversial after the Arkansas Times uncovered it.

"Where do you keep coming up with those falsehoods?" Schueck asked.

That's not an answer to the question of whether Schueck helped the airport get its money back and Mathieu out of a jam.

"That's all been handled and I'm not going back into it," he said.

That's not a yes or no either, I noted, but it's all Schueck would say.

Schueck said that I shouldn't take this as any indication of any problem between him and Mathieu. Nonetheless, continued turmoil prompted a special Airport Commission meeting Tuesday. No action was taken, though there'd been buzz that Schueck might have the votes to push through Keck for the job.

It's Mathieu's call on what to do next, Commission Chairman Virgil Miller said, in consultation with the Commission's personnel committee. He added, "He has the full support of the Commission." We'll see.

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017
  • Along the civil rights trail

    A convergence of events in recent days signaled again how far we have come and how far we have yet to go in civil rights.
    • Jan 18, 2018
  • The Oval outhouse

    One thing all Americans finally can agree upon is that public discourse has coarsened irretrievably in the era of Donald Trump and largely at his instance.
    • Jan 18, 2018

Latest in Max Brantley

  • A real mayor

    Baker Kurrus is trying to brand himself as an agent for change as mayor of Little Rock, but labors under a handicap.
    • Nov 22, 2018
  • How red are we?

    Election results in Arkansas were discouraging for Democrats and progressive voters.
    • Nov 15, 2018
  • For the teachers and for Kurrus

    Events in the Little Rock School District prompt me to say more about the Little Rock mayor's race in favor of Baker Kurrus.
    • Nov 1, 2018
  • More »

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Herd shifts

    • Dearest Mytwo: I am not a Republican - they are responsible for all the guns…

    • on December 10, 2018
  • Re: Herd shifts

    • Oh my, my comment went bye - Al - from your quote, "Asking for direct…

    • on December 10, 2018
  • Re: Herd shifts

    • By now, smart Republicans have got to be catching each other's eyes. After enough quit…

    • on December 10, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation