The Islip Town Board voted 5-0 Tuesday to fire Long Island MacArthur Airport Commissioner Teresa Rizzuto and replace her with her deputy, Terry Hennessey, while the town conducts a nationwide search for a new commissioner.
With no public comment offered by residents who attended the meeting, Supervisor Tom Croci briefly congratulated Hennessey and thanked Rizzuto for her service.
When the town board resolution that led to Rizzuto's firing was published Thursday, Croci, a Republican, said he was looking to take the Ronkonkoma airport in a new direction, and noted that there had been a fall-off in flights at the airport since 2006.
"We really want to step out and see the kind of progress at MacArthur that Islip residents deserve," Croci said, adding that Rizzuto held the reins during "a difficult time in aviation."
Industry experts say MacArthur's drop-off in commercial flights was caused by a combination of factors, including rising fuel prices, the economic downturn and contraction in the aviation industry.
Rizzuto was appointed commissioner in 2008 by Democratic Supervisor Phil Nolan. She began her career as part of the ground crew at Kennedy Airport. She was a senior manager for United Airlines before taking over Long Island's largest airport. In 2009, the National Association of Women Business Owners named her Trailblazer of the Year. Last week, she was honored by the Long Island Contractors Association.
"I'm confident that I have left the airport in good shape for future growth, and I want to wish my staff and the airport's many stakeholders good luck and Godspeed," she said Tuesday.
In a statement Thursday, Rizzuto had hinted at the possibility of a new airline coming to MacArthur in the "near future," but did not elaborate.
Political observers said Rizzuto's eventual ouster was foreshadowed when then-candidate Croci and Islip GOP leader Frank Tantone publicly criticized her on the campaign trail in September.
Former airport Deputy Commissioner Bob Schaefer, who served at MacArthur under Republican Supervisor Peter McGowan in 2004 and 2005 and who is now an aide to Legis. Thomas F. Barraga (R-West Islip), told Newsday on Friday he will throw his name into the pool of candidates, adding that he has agreed to interview for the post.
With Sarah Crichton