Orlando International Airport picks new Director

Orlando International Airport (MCO) finally has a new Chief Executive Officer.

The seven-member team that makes up Orlando’s aviation authority voted today on a replacement for veteran Phil Brown, the airport’s previous CEO, choosing, by a 5-2 vote, Kevin Thibault, Florida’s current Transportation Secretary.

Governor Ron DeSantis Selects Kevin J. Thibault as Secretary of The Florida Department of Transportation - Orlando Political Observer (Orlando Politics)

Credit: Orlando Political Observer

“I stayed up late last night thinking and praying on this, ‘’ said Carson Good, Chairman of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. “I did not get any direction on who to pick, by the way.”

Orlando’s aviation authority is comprised of 7 members, 5 of whom were appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis. The two members of the aviation authority who are not DeSantis appointees include Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, who voted to bring in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s current director, and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer who said that the Seattle director was also his choice for the position.

He added, however, that he would vote along with the majority of the aviation authority so there was anonymity among the members.

Secretary Thibault has no experience as an airport director or CEO, but his career has been built on years of experience in collaboration with airports in Florida.

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“My style is management by walking around,” Thibault said during an interview with Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, or GOAA, saying he believes in empowering staffers. “It’s also not to micromanage.”

Mr. Thibault was appointed to his position as Florida’s Transportation Secretary by Governor Ron DeSantis three years ago. It’s a position he’s served in for more than 16 years, though over 3 separate appointments. Once Thibault was formally named a finalist in the aviation authority’s search for a new CEO for MCO, Governor DeSantis’s director of communications went public with a statement in favor of Thibault’s standing as a finalist.

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“[Thibault] has a proven track record of working across the aisle in all levels of government,” Taryn Fenske, Communications Director said in a statement. “If selected, his expertise would be a great benefit to . . . the entire central Florida community.”

Orlando’s aviation authority also interviewed leaders of airports in Washington, California, and Texas, before deciding on Thibault. One of the central focuses for the new airport director at MCO will be ensuring a smooth opening of the airport’s newest terminal later this year.

Mr. Good, the aviation authority chairman described Mr. Thibault as someone who is fascinated with airports.

“He has a passion for the airport,” Chairman Good explained. “I know he’s wanted to do this for a year or so, but the governor did not want to let him go. So, I didn’t think it would happen.”

North Terminal with ATC Tower, APM and Aircraft Hero Image

Orlando International Airport/Credit: OrlandoAirports.net

On average, nearly 40 million passengers arrive at and/or depart Orlando International Airport every year, according to OrlandoAirports.net. In 2019, MCO saw a record 50.6 million passengers in its terminals. Of those passengers, nearly 7.2 million were traveling internationally, and close to 43.5 million passengers were traveling domestically.

Guests of the Walt Disney World Resort make up a large part of MCO’s domestic and international traffic. Recently, in honor of Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration, part of the airport was dressed in its Disney and 50th best, giving Guests a taste of the magic from the very moment they disembarked the aircraft.

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Orlando International Airport is Florida’s busiest airport, and it’s the 10th busiest in the nation. The airport’s terminals host 29 passengers airlines and 7 cargo airlines.

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Thibault’s formal installation as CEO hinges on further talks and salary negotiations, which have already begun.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!