City hires new airport engineer

Staff Photo: Crystal Tatum. Vincent Passariello talks about plans for growth at Covington Municipal Airport. Passariello is the city's new airport engineer.

Staff Photo: Crystal Tatum. Vincent Passariello talks about plans for growth at Covington Municipal Airport. Passariello is the city's new airport engineer.

COVINGTON -- It seems Vincent Passariello is perfectly suited to be the city of Covington's new airport engineer.

He's a pilot, which means he knows the ins and outs of airport operations and what's needed to make things work well from a customer's perspective. And he's an engineer with lots of experience in construction, which means he's got the knowledge to oversee the nuts and bolts details of improvement and expansion projects at Covington Municipal Airport.

Passariello has been on the job about two weeks. He came to the city after working for three years for Newton County, where he served as assistant county engineer. Passariello's position was cut during the most recent round of county layoffs.

Having worked with Passariello on joint projects between the city and county, City Manager Steve Horton knew he was the right fit for the job. Horton had been considering hiring someone who could focus almost entirely on the airport. Horton is airport manager, but due to other obligations with running the city, he said he has not been able to devote as much time as he would like to overseeing the facility. Eventually, Passariello could transition into the role of airport manager.

"I think Vincent is extremely knowledgeable through his education and experience," Horton said. "The county had to make the decision they made and it was a loss for them. The airport is one of those things that is a growing entity for the city and a growing concern for me. With 17 different operations in the city, I've got my hands in a lot things. When the most critical things have been happening at the airport is when I've been busiest. I don't think I've been able to devote enough time to the airport because of my other demands. I asked the council and they agreed we absolutely needed to come up with somebody who had a strong enough engineering background to work with consulting engineers on construction and contract management and the airport management side of things and maybe transition into airport manager. Lo and behold, Vincent became available."

Passariello is concentrating on overseeing the final stages of an improvement project at the airport that has been under way for the past year. Next, he'll be focused on an upcoming expansion that will include construction of a new terminal building, hangar and apron along with a new entrance off Ga. Highway 142.

"Airports have been seen as a central point of development in any community, but airports only bring in money if they have equipment. Planes bring in tax revenues just like cars and boats and other property. We'd like to have as many airplanes based at the airport as possible," Passariello said.

With airport space in metro Atlanta becoming more scarce and costly, Passariello believes Covington is uniquely poised to offer just what business and industry leaders are looking for: "We're in a unique situation in that, once we get the new entrance off Ga. Highway 142, we'll be a mile off the expressway. You can park your plane, get in the car and be in Atlanta faster than you could from Gwinnett or Peachtree-DeKalb, with less traffic," he said.

Another goal is to market the airport to attract industrial development locally.

"The mayor, city manager and city council have made it very clear to me the airport is a major investment and they want it to be a major revenue source. I'm going to do everything in my power to make that happen," Passariello said.

As a pilot who has flown in and out of the airport and attended Airport Advisory Committee meetings, Passariello said he can bring an important perspective to his work.

"When I see the airport I also see it from a pilot's point of view, from a safety point of view and a comfort point of view. Sometimes it's important to speak the same language," he said.

Passariello has more than 30 years experience in engineering and has worked "in every possible facet" on construction projects, from concept and design to execution and management, he said.

Born in Naples, Italy, and reared in Caracas, Venezuela, he is fluent in Italian and Spanish. Passariello came to America at the age of 19. He earned an engineering degree from Michigan Technological University, an MBA from the University of Miami, and a master's degree in engineering from Georgia Tech.

He owned his own construction and design company in Miami from 1979 to 1997. He moved to Atlanta in 1997 and worked for a large development company until 2007. Passariello retired in early 2007, but by fall, he was itching to get back to work again and took the job with Newton County. As assistant county engineer, he was a consultant for the public works department on drainage and road projects and supervised numerous projects involving the Georgia Department of Transportation. In his new role at the city Passariello is also helping city officials navigate recent changes to the state transportation system.

A member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Passariello flies search and rescue missions along the coast of Savannah. He has flown about 40 missions during the last three years and saved two lives. He also teaches boating safety classes, performs vessel inspections and other duties for the Coast Guard, volunteering between 700 and 800 hours per year. He is a member of the Hispanic Initiative Committee of the Northeast Georgia Council Boy Scouts of America.

He and wife Irais, a chemical engineer, live in Snellville and have three grown children.