Islip officials announced Thursday plans to fire Long Island MacArthur Airport commissioner Teresa Rizzuto and install her deputy while the town conducts a nationwide search for a new aviation head.
Noting Rizzuto led the airport "at a difficult time in aviation," Republican Town Supervisor Tom Croci said he wished her well but highlighted a drop-off in commercial flights at the airport since 2006.
"We just want to take [the airport] in a different direction; we really want to step out and see the kind of progress at MacArthur that Islip residents deserve," he said.
The town board is set to vote Tuesday, and deputy commissioner Terry Hennessey's appointment would immediately take effect.
Rizzuto, hired in 2008 by former Democratic Supervisor Phil Nolan, said in a statement it had been an honor to serve as commissioner during a time in which "the men and women at Long Island MacArthur have set new standards of excellence for airport operations."
She said Croci "certainly has the right to select the people with whom he chooses to work and I respect that."
She expressed confidence "that we have paved the way for the administration so at least one new airline may be introduced to MacArthur in the near future" but did not elaborate.
Croci, together with Islip GOP chairman Frank Tantone, criticized Rizzuto publicly while on the campaign trail in September, which political observers felt set the scene for her to be replaced.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) described Rizzuto as "one of the best things to happen to MacArthur Airport in a very long time," adding, "I am certain the work she has put in over the last four years will continue to pay dividends for the airport and Long Island for years to come."
Rizzuto began on the ground crew at Kennedy Airport and became a United Airlines senior manager before taking over Long Island's largest airport. In 2009, the National Association of Women Business Owners named her Trailblazer of the Year. Wednesday night, she was honored at a ceremony hosted by the Long Island Contractors' Association.
LICA executive director Marc Herbst described Rizzuto as "a consummate professional who did an outstanding job placing MacArthur Airport back on Long Island's map -- I trust Supervisor Croci will appoint another high-caliber leader as part of his team."
Industry experts say MacArthur's fortunes are buffeted by a range of factors, including fuel prices and massive contraction in the aviation industry amid the economic downturn.