New Airport Names New Executive Director

There has been some changes in management at the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.  Former Executive Director Randy Curtis has been moved to a different role, Director of Special Projects and John Wheat was named the Executive Director.  This move came quickly with little fanfare and only but a little commotion from one of the board members who held the only dissenting vote – Andy McKenzie.  McKenzie’s quarrel with the swift action was that it was just that, too fast.

In the past, airport positions have been well publicized, accepted many resumes and have opened up discussion for the board in advance.  The hiring of Wheat was fast, not well discussed in public and actually slipped through in the board meeting without his name being mentioned.

The quick movements were justified by other board members by the time-sensitive negotiations the board was in with Southwest and Delta Airlines over future landing fees.  As of date, the airlines have not been happy with the pace of negotiations and the new appointments were expected to accelerate a final agreement.  Landing fees are a significant revenue generator for the airport.  Concurrent with the appointment of Wheat as the new executive director, both airlines and St. Joe gave their nod of approval of Wheat as well.

Another appointment was made as well: Parker McClellan as the Deputy Executive Director.

I bet you’re wondering how much all these guys make.  I know I sure was.  In an article recently released in the News Herald, the annual salaries were noted:  John Wheat, Executive Director, $135,000; Parker McClellan, Deputy Executive Director, $100,000; Randy Curtis, Director of Special Projects, $116,000.

Here is the full press release:

Panama City, Fla. (April 27, 2011) – The Airport Authority has named John Wheat as the executive director of the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. As executive director, Wheat is responsible for leading the operational and strategic efforts of the Airport and reports to the Airport Authority Board of Directors. Wheat brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the aviation industry and most recently served as COO of the Tampa International Airport, where he was responsible for the organization’s finances and operations, as well as brings valued relationships with key partners.

The Airport Authority has also introduced a new organizational model for the Airport with a leadership team that is well-positioned to take the organization forward. This includes Parker McClellan as Deputy Executive Director and Randy Curtis as Director of Special Projects. McClellan, who most recently served as the acting director for the Airport, is now the Deputy Executive Director to ensure a comprehensive leadership team with all airport activity working through this position and up to the Executive Director. Curtis will play an important role in the closing of the “old airport”, as well as ensuring the airport maintains positive relationships with various state and federal agencies. His historical and institutional knowledge will be valuable to the upcoming work on behalf of this organization.

With the addition of John Wheat, the Northwest Florida Beaches International leadership team brings the vision, experience and relationships to best leverage one of the community’s greatest assets. This strategic leadership team is focused on driving the region’s economic vitality as they lead the first international airport to open in more than 10 years. The gateway to beautiful world-famous beaches, Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport boasts a plethora of convenient flights daily serviced by Southwest Airlines and Delta Airlines.

Another Successful Thunder Beach Rally

Thunder Beach Productions, Inc. (TBP) held the 11th annual Spring Thunder Beach Bike Rally. Riders from across the country traveled to Panama City Beach to take part in the most biker-friendly free rally in the U.S. The vendor sponsored event attracted cheerful, playful and bizarre characters from all walks of life.

Local businesses welcomed the high-spirited riders with open arms. Restaurants served the comrades on wheels with concerts, beauty pageants, and karaoke that was wildly entertaining. Frank Brown Park was the main site of the rally, where sponsors of the event catered to the cyclist’s every need. The roaring motorcycles covered local businesses throughout the 27 plus miles of premier beaches.

This was truly a rally to be remembered, and one that has shown consistent growth since its first rally was organized in spring of 2000. For all of us who can’t wait until next spring to participate in the rally again, TBP also holds a yearly autumn bike rally in September right here in Panama City Beach. For more information visit their website at

SPOTTED: Google Maps Street View Car in PCB

If you’re not a bit nerdy, you probably won’t really care.  But, since this is something that doesn’t happen very often (like maybe once every 3 or 4 years), I figured it was absolutely noteworthy.

Google Maps has several Subaru Impreza cars wrapped in Google Maps garb and outfitted with a roof assembly topped with a “Ladybug” that includes an array of 15 cameras.  The “Ladybug” takes shots slightly down, level and  slightly up at 360 degrees.  The array can snap shots in real time at normal driving speeds.  The driver needs to do nothing else except drive normally while in operation.

The driver of this car is a local, hired as a contractor by Google through the local Workforce Center.  Once he was hired, he was flown to California, trained on how to use the car then drove it back here to map out the area.

When I talked to the driver, he had already completed Panama City proper and Panama City Beach, and was headed to Destin.

So, what does this mean for Panama City Beach?  This means we’re going to have more up to date imagery of Panama City Beach in Google Maps Street View.

More on Google Maps Street View.

Here are more pictures.