SF Airport comms enters spotlight as Wilson retires

SAN FRANCISCO: Ron Wilson, the former spokesman for the San Francisco Airport, has been the focus of media speculation since his recent retirement.

SAN FRANCISCO: Ron Wilson, the former spokesman for the San Francisco Airport, has been the focus of media speculation since his recent retirement.

National Public Radio and the San Francisco Chronicle both reported last week that Wilson, the airport's director of public affairs, was pushed out of his job because of political pressure.

The Chronicle's Matier and Ross column said that reporters loved Wilson for his frankness. But that rapport with journalists may have been a source of frustration for John Martin, the airport director, and for San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.

Apparently, US Department of Transportation secretary Norman Mineta, during a Washington, DC meeting with Brown, expressed dismay at press reports that the airport had had problems with its application process for screeners.

According to reports, Martin brought in Kandace Bender, former press secretary to Mayor Brown, to head up the department as deputy airport director, marketing and communications. Wilson retired soon after.

Brown's office did not refute any of the details in the Chronicle's story, and instead added that good communications with the DOT is paramount.

"The story raised some issues that came up in recent years, agreed P.J. Johnston, Brown's press secretary. "Regarding how things work, the relationship between an international airport and the federal government is critical.

Obviously, after 9/11, that relationship takes center stage across the country."

Bender has been "streamlining the airport's communications and marketing functions. "I was asked by the director to put together a comprehensive, cogent, and collaborative communications and marketing message for the airport, she said.

Bender continues to lead communications for airfield development and runway modernization, as she has for the past two years.

The new airport spokesman is Mike McCarron, a 12-year veteran of the airport, and former Navy pilot, who most recently worked as a duty manager. He has also handled some media inquiries for over a year.

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