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New interim Baton Rouge Airport director J. Michael Edwards speaks during a meeting of the metro council, Wednesday, September 26, 2018, at City Hall in Baton Rouge, La. Edwards' position goes into effect October 11, 2018.

The public "embarrassment" surrounding the Baton Rouge Airport director appointment drags on.

The East Baton Rouge Parish Metro Council on Wednesday declined to officially elevate interim director Mike Edwards after all the job finalists pulled out.

Council members said the stalemate is reflecting poorly on the city-parish.

"We've got to do better, Baton Rouge," said Councilman Dwight Hudson.

The city-parish asked the nation to send its best and brightest candidates "and we ignored them," Hudson continued.

"We wasted taxpayer money," Pro Tem Scott Wilson added.

The city-parish had allocated $40,000 to hire a headhunting firm to help choose an airport director. After two years of attempting to fill the vacancy, it remains open.

Members of the public criticized the panel for its repeated inability to fill the airport director position. Speakers called the council members incompetent and deficient in leadership.

Donna Collins-Lewis fired back at those accusations.

"To say we're incompetent — that's not right," she said.

Rather, a majority of members — Democrats and Republicans — didn't think that any candidates were the most deserving of the job, Collins-Lewis said.

However, Collins-Lewis did vote to end the deadlock and just give the job to Edwards. She was joined by Denise Amoroso, Chauna Banks, LaMont Cole, Erika Green and Trae Welch. Barbara Freiberg, Hudson, Matt Watson and Wilson opposed the appointment. Chandler Loupe and Tara Wicker were absent.

Freiberg, who initially called for a national search, asked for another month to consider the airport's options. Under questioning by Wilson, she requested about four more weeks to perform an expedited search. Both current airport employees and outside candidates would be invited to apply, she said.

Wilson agreed but said he would not abide another half-year without a decision.

"I want this done. I'm not doing it (another six months)," he said.

Welch expressed the same sentiment in an interview following the vote. Welch, who is also a pilot and airport commissioner, was ready to advance Edwards.

"I think it's time to get an airport director," he said.

Airport Commission Chairman Cleve Dunn Jr. was standing next to Welch. He echoed the councilman's assessment. Dunn had appeared before the council to praise Edwards.

The city-parish's headhunters generally described Edwards as a competent employee but lacking the experience they would prefer in an airport director. Edwards had been the airport's director of operations and applied for the director position but was eliminated from consideration when the council cut the number of finalists from five to three. The city-parish now has zero finalists.

Edwards attended Wednesday's meeting but did not address the Metro Council and declined an interview.

Freiberg said she doesn't doubt Edwards' ability, but she wants to make sure the city-parish finds the best leader instead of reacting to frustration over the continued job opening.

The city-parish took no definitive action Wednesday. The vote to confirm Edwards narrowly failed, but with no affirmative action taken, he will continue to serve on an interim basis until a final decision is made.


Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.