Thomas J. Kinton Jr., the chief executive officer and executive director of the Massachusetts Port Authority, a 1,200-person agency with more than $500 million in annual revenue derived from owning and operating Boston Logan International Airport, two other airports, the public terminals in the Port of Boston, and hundreds of acres of real estate, announced in a letter to employees that he was retiring from the Authority to pursue other interests.
With Kinton’s departure, effective June 1, Massport will lose a leader with unrivaled understanding of Massport and how its facilities operate. The Winchester, Mass. resident came to Massport in 1976 filling a temporary job in the engineering department; he held numerous positions in the aviation department, before becoming aviation director in 1993. As aviation director, Kinton was responsible for Logan, Hanscom Field and managing Worcester Regional Airport. When he was appointed CEO in 2006, he took on the added responsibility of the cruise and container terminals in the port, the Tobin Bridge, and real estate development.
While his career is a classic local-boy-made-good tale, Kinton is known and respected nationally and internationally for his knowledge and leadership skills in airport management. In 2005, Kinton was named Airport Director of the Year by Airport Revenue News and in 2008 was elected to the Board of Directors of Airports Council International – North America, which represents local, regional and state governing bodies that own and operate commercial airports in the United States and Canada.
During his career, Kinton has weathered oil embargos and fuel price spikes, the 1981 PATCO strike, SARS, H1N1 and airline deregulation which resulted in the industry changing from a white-glove way for the elite to travel, to low cost carriers opening the skies to everyone. But perhaps his biggest challenges were the $4.4 billion Logan modernization program which effectively built a new airport -- capable of handling passenger growth fueled by airline deregulation -- on top of one that had to continue to function as one the nation’s 20 busiest airports; and rebuilding confidence – both internal and external – in Logan after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
“When two airplanes were commandeered by terrorists on 9/11, I watched as Massport and the entire Logan airport community pulled together to restore public confidence in both the airline industry, and in itself,’’ Kinton said. “And because we had been one of the very first airports in the nation to establish a CARE family assistance unit, we were able to lend a hand to those who lost loved ones on that terrible day.”
Kinton’s priority as a manager has been to make sure Massport facilities are safe and secure for everyone who uses them and works in them. His management style has been to give authority to department heads to get the job done and give credit to the team for Authority successes.
“Both individuals and organizations can find change uncomfortable and challenging, but I have great confidence in you individually and the Authority collectively that the safety and security of our facilities and those who use them will remain a constant, no matter who is at the helm,’’ Kinton said to the Board.
"On behalf of Governor Patrick and Lt. Governor Murray, I want to thank Tom and congratulate him on his decision to retire," said MassDOT Secretary and Massport Board Chair Jeffrey Mullan. "As Chair of the Massport Board, I know I speak for the entire Board when I express my deep appreciation for his management of the organization. It is due in part to his efforts that Massport is in good fiscal health today despite the economic downturn, the loss of airline passengers in recent years, and Massport's contributions to transportation reform. As a friend and colleague of Tom's for over 20 years, I will miss his contributions to the state's transportation system and his unwavering professionalism."
Under Kinton’s leadership in the Aviation Department and as the CEO of the Authority, Massport has produced a long list of industry trend-setting firsts in security, safety and environmental protection. In the security realm these include the daily 8:30 a.m. security meeting where Logan Airport stakeholders come together to review the past 24 hours and look ahead at the next 24 hours; deploying an innovative behavior pattern recognition program; being the first large airport in the nation -- and the only one to meet the federal deadline of Dec. 31, 2002 -- for 100 percent checked baggage screening; being the first airport to have an on-site joint terrorism task force command center.
In the safety arena, Logan became the first airport in the nation to have runway status lights at intersecting runways; it houses an advanced training simulator for FAA controllers; successfully tested an automated radar/video based foreign object debris detection technology on a runway; pioneering use of ship monitoring and height detection radar to enhance surveillance of the ship channel off the end of Logan’s primary bad weather runway; and Logan was one of three airports to create with the FAA a precedent-setting composite map of critical obstruction surfaces to minimize and prevent further intrusions of tall structures into Logan’s airspace. Massport has been an industry leader in focusing FAA and industry attention on this critical issue.
On the environmental front, Logan is the first airport in the country to have its residential soundproofing program supported by FAA grants; Hanscom Field is the first general aviation airport in the country to have its environmental management system (EMS) receive ISO 14001 certification -- recognition it meets the highest international standards; Conley Container Terminal is the first port facility in the nation to have its EMS receive ISO 14001 certification; Terminal A is the first airport terminal in the world to be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified by the US Green Building Council; Massport created the state’s first ever direct incentive program to promote the development and use of hybrid and clean-fuel vehicles; Logan was the first airport in the United States to use “warm mix” asphalt on runways to allow for lower production and application temperatures, saving fuel and resulting in a decrease in emissions of approximately 20%; expanded use of alternative energy at Logan including wind turbines installed at the Logan Office Center and long-time use of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses which have shuttled passengers for more than 13 million "clean air miles."
During Kinton’s tenure, Massport has received dozens of awards and recognitions including the Air Line Pilots Association Airport of the Year in 2008 for its commitment to safety; the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Leading by Example award in 2008, the Airports Council International – North America environmental award in 2008 for Logan’s air quality program; the Balchen/Post award for the best snow and ice control at a major aiport twice in the last six years; and Air Safety Week’s Airport Security Report “Exceptional Performance in Airport Security Award” in 2004.
“In my 35 years at Massport, I’ve witnessed – and led -- some revolutionary changes in the way we do business,’’ Kinton said. “ The ability to respond, adapt, evolve and ultimately succeed is why Massachusetts created the Massachusetts Port Authority the way it did more than a half century ago. It was designed so that it could focus on the long-term transportation needs of the Commonwealth. And it was given financial independence so that, to the greatest extent possible for a public agency accountable to the public and the public’s representatives, it could keep politics at arm’s length.
“Everyone who has ever sat in this chair before me, and others who will sit in this chair after I am gone, learns very quickly that he or she serve many masters. With freedom comes responsibility, and with the freedom that was deliberately given to Massport by the State Legislature more than 50 years ago comes the responsibility that Massport has for an incredible number and variety of stakeholders. Other executive directors have balanced those obligations in their own way, and I am sure others will find a different balance in the future. I have always tried to ensure that Massport remains a team player that lends a hand whenever it is asked, yet still protects the irreplaceable assets entrusted to its care. ‘’
Kinton holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering and a Doctor of Commercial Science (Hon.) from Merrimack College. He is currently a Board Member of the New England Council and a Member of the Board of Trustees for Merrimack College.