This much can be said for Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald: He has his own style. Not one for the status quo, he is more inclined than his predecessors to impose his will on organizations that in theory are semi-autonomous and distinct from the county, even if some of their members are appointed from Grant Street.
Consider several fights Mr. Fitzgerald has picked. He didn't like what director of the county Health Department, Bruce Dixon, was doing and he had him fired.
He didn't like the job the head of the Port Authority, Steve Bland, was doing and he had him fired.
He didn't like the performance of the executive director of the Allegheny County Airport Authority, Bradley D. Penrod, in trying to attract more flights and this time he didn't have him fired but had him moved aside into an airport operations job.
The question for county residents is whether Mr. Fitzgerald's style is imperial or practical -- is it a function of ego or need? The answer shifts, depending on what head has rolled. The Post-Gazette thought that Dr. Dixon had to go because he had become too stubbornly resistant on such issues as restaurant inspections and public grading. We expressed some concern about Mr. Bland's firing, fearing that his successor might not be someone who was an expert in public transit management.
As for Mr. Penrod, his case is more complicated. Mr. Fitzgerald speaks well of his abilities, which is why he supported the unusual step of keeping him on the payroll. Jim Gill, the chief financial officer, will become executive vice president of the authority. But the authority is conducting a national search for a CEO who is to focus on the development of additional air service and new destinations. We are all for that with one reservation.
According to Michael Boyd, a widely respected Colorado-based aviation consultant, a new CEO might not be able to do any better given the circumstances of the airport and the market. He told the Post-Gazette's Mark Belko that Mr. Penrod is being made a scapegoat for frustrations about the level of service.
Imperial or practical? In the end, this Fitzgerald move -- like the others -- will be judged by how it works out.