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Metro Councilman Trae Welch proposes appointing Ralph Hennessy as Director of Aviation for the Greater Baton Rouge Airport District at a council meeting in October. His proposal was defeated but a proposal by Councilwoman Barbara Freiberg establishing a committee and appointing members to conduct a national search for the Director of Aviation passed.

Advocate Staff Photo by PATRICK DENNIS

At its latest meeting, the Metro Council sailed through items that have been mired in controversy when they've come up previously.

The council granted an industrial tax exemption for a brewery and allowed non-profits to host needle exchanges for drug users. One item, though, required more debate — appointing members to an advisory board to make recommendations on hiring a new airport director.

Councilman Trae Welch, who serves on the airport commission, has supported the appointment of long-time assistant director Ralph Hennessy, who has now been serving as the interim leader for over a year. Councilwoman Barbara Freiberg has advocated for a national search to consider outside candidates as well. Her search committee would present recommendations, but the full council will ultimately make the hiring decision.

Freiberg recently got permission to hold a public search, and she asked her colleagues on Wednesday to fast-track the appointment of committee members. The airport commissioners nominated State Rep. Barbara Carpenter, Jim Ellis, Cleve Dunn Jr. and Johnny Fife to help in the search. Freiberg nominated herself, Welch and Chauna Banks — whose district includes the airport — to represent the council. 

Other council members tugged the reins to slow the process. Some of the airport commissioners' terms expire next month, and they might not seek reappointment or might not be reappointed by council, Buddy Amoroso noted. Councilman Dwight Hudson moved to table the item until then.

"I certainly object. ... I think the important thing is to get the process started," Freiberg said.

She argued that the search committee needs to start advertising the job and it doesn't matter if a few members change between now and the new year. The previous airport director retired over a year ago, and they're still being helmed by an interim leader, she continued.

"He's doing a good job, according to Trae," Chandler Loupe retorted, prompting laughter.

Nevertheless, he and Hudson withdrew their motion to defer the item in order to allow the national search for an airport director may begin.

Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.