After his election as mayor of Philadelphia, Ed Rendell brought me into his office and wanted to know what part in the administration I’d like to play. On the table was the position of deputy mayor. Philadelphia Magazine has written about this in the past. It was something that I struggled with, but in the end it became apparent to me, thanks to my friends, that there was so much more work in the community to be done that it would be a disservice for me to be on the other side of the fence, so to speak.
So we had another meeting and Ed kept tossing out boards and commissions. Finally I looked at him and said, “I’d like to be on Philadelphia International Airport Advisory Board.” The next line is actually true. Ed said, “Why?” And I responded, “I’d like to be Philly’s official flying fairy.” That joke was told between friends and Ed almost fell off his chair.
So I started my tenure at the airport, which lasted almost 16 years. I was the longest-serving member of the board, which went through many changes. I left several years ago when it had become a rubber stamp.
But in the early days, we had major impact, and I’m proud of my contributions. Enter Mayor Nutter. He decided to reactivate the board. I was asked to serve and accepted once I was assured that we would not be just a rubberstamp.
At the press conference last week at the airport, I was overwhelmed airport personnel who came out to give me a hug or handshake and say, “Welcome home.”
So why the airport?
Philadelphia International Airport is the single biggest economic engine of the Philadelphia region, contributing $14 billion annually to the local economy, creating more than 141,000 jobs within the region through direct and indirect employment and generating $404.4 million in annual tax revenues for the region.
Our first effort is to assist in implementing an impressive growth and improvement plan. What do you think of rainbow tarmacs? Just kidding.
Mark Segal is PGN publisher. He is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media, having just received the 2010 Columnist of the Year Award from the 2,000-member Suburban Newspapers of America. He can be reached at [email protected].