© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Robert Kennedy to step down from job overseeing Cleveland's airports

Cleveland Director of Port Control Robert Kennedy talks with media in 2018 at Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport.
Gabriel Kramer
Ideastream Public Media
Cleveland Director of Port Control Robert Kennedy talks with media in 2018 at Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport.

The Cleveland official who oversees the city’s airports is stepping down.

Robert Kennedy submitted a resignation letter this week after leading the city’s airport system for more than five years.

“This was not an easy decision,” Kennedy, who turns 70 this year, wrote in his letter to Chief Operating Officer Bonnie Teeuwen. “After much consideration, I have decided to devote all my time to being a husband, father, and grandfather, as I have spent so much time away from family during my career.”

In the letter, which the city released, Kennedy wrote that he was “highly encouraged by the new approaches this administration brings to the conversation about better/brighter air transportation future for Northeast Ohio travelers.”

No official last day has been set, according to Marie Zickefoose, Mayor Justin Bibb’s press secretary. In a news release, Teeuwen thanked Kennedy for leading the airport system through the coronavirus pandemic.

“The city is prepared to conduct a national search for a new airport director,” Teeuwen said in the release. “We continue to look for the brightest and best candidates for leadership roles, particularly those that can help transition our city and services to the next level.”

Kennedy was hired to lead the city’s airports by then-Mayor Frank Jackson in 2017. He took over the system months after the city reached a $200,000 settlement with the Federal Aviation Administration over problems removing snow and ice at the airport. The FAA had originally fined the city $735,000.

The airport has weathered other challenges since then. In early 2019, the airport was hit by a malware cyberattack “that devastated us,” Kennedy told a Cleveland City Council committee recently.

But Cleveland-Hopkins also hit a 10-year passenger high that year, tallying a passenger volume just above 10 million. The number of passengers shrunk to 4.1 million amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, recovering to almost 7.3 million in 2021.

Kennedy led the airport system through a master-planning process and departs employment as the city considers a $2 billion overhaul to Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport and as conversation again swirls about the possibility of closing Burke Lakefront Airport just north of Downtown.

The director of port control is the highest-paid position in Cleveland city government, with an annual salary of about $300,000.

Kennedy has decades of experience in the airport business, including time at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the country’s busiest hub.

Updated: April 5, 2022 at 5:26 PM EDT
This story has been updated to include details from Kennedy's letter of resignation.
Updated: April 5, 2022 at 5:05 PM EDT
This story has been updated to provide additional details.
Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.