The Lafayette Regional Airport Board of Commissioners is expected to approve a contract on Tuesday for Steven Picou, a deputy aviation director in Amarillo, Texas, who was offered the Lafayette director’s position last week.
If the board ratifies Picou’s contract at the special meeting, he will begin work March 9. Picou was chosen from among 34 applicants and was offered the job Wednesday after a 7-0 vote.
Picou, 43, arrived in Lafayette with his wife and two children over the weekend to begin looking for a new home. On Monday, he met with airport commission Chairman Matt Cruse.
“I’m very glad to be back home,” Picou said. He is a native of Cut Off whose father lives in Franklinton and whose mother-in-law lives in Labadieville.
“And I have tons of aunts and uncles who still live down the bayou between Cut Off and Larose,” said Picou, who through the years has shed — or has hidden — his Cajun accent.
He’s a graduate of South Lafourche High School and Louisiana Tech University who went on to jobs at New Orleans International Airport, Albuquerque International Airport in New Mexico and as deputy director at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport since 2008.
Picou will take over a busy Lafayette Regional Airport that is projected to grow busier in the next 10 years. Lafayette commercial air passengers in 2014 totaled more than half a million for the first time; construction is ongoing on a Bell Helicopter assembly plant on airport grounds; and planning has begun to build a bigger parking lot, an expanded commercial passenger terminal and other improvements in a multiyear project expected to cost $90 million.
Picou said he has experience overseeing airport projects that are built while commercial service continues. In Albuquerque, he spearheaded construction of a fuel farm that expanded storage from 100,000 gallons of aviation fuel to 1.3 million gallons. In Amarillo, he oversaw construction of a new $52 million commercial passenger terminal.
Lafayette Regional’s director position has been vacant since June, when longtime Director Greg Roberts resigned. Commissioners advertised nationally for a new director and drew 34 applicants by October. The list was pared to three candidates this month, and Wednesday, commissioners voted 7-0 to offer Picou the job. By Saturday, both sides had agreed on contract specifics, which the board is to ratify Tuesday morning.
One of the qualities commissioners looked for in interviews was how sociable candidates were.
Kenneth Boudreaux, a Lafayette City-Parish Council member who was part of the director search committee, said last year it was important the next director be a “people person.”
Commissioner Paul Guilbeau, who headed the search committee, said the next director “should be the face of the airport.”
Picou said he’s comfortable engaging strangers, though he’s no glad-hander.
“I don’t consider myself a social butterfly, but you need to rub elbows and meet people and shake hands and talk to people,” Picou said. “You have to get out and be the face of the airport.”
Commissioners have said the director salary pays between $100,000 and $150,000 a year, depending on experience. Picou on Monday did not state what his salary would be.
By Monday he also had not met the administrative staff and maintenance personnel, which includes interim Director Michael Burrows and more than 20 other employees. Picou said he’ll expect the staff to be informed and responsive about ongoing projects.
“They need to be able to answer questions when I’m not available, so we’re all playing from the same sheet of music,” he said.