The Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority board of commissioners is under new leadership.

Brian Simmons is the board’s new chairman, a position he assumed during a Wednesday meeting. He previously served 5½ years as vice chairman of the board, which oversees McGhee Tyson Airport in Alcoa.

“I’ve been on the board for nine years and started as vice chairman for half of that or more,” Simmons told The Daily Times.

Simmons is the president and founder of Simmons Property Group LLC, a real-estate company headquartered in Knoxville. He’s played a role in acquiring and financing more than 40 commercial real estate properties, an Airport Authority press release states.

An Airport Authority board member since 2011, Simmons held other leadership positions before serving as vice chairman. He also previously was chairman of the Knoxville Transit Authority.

“Being involved in the Airport Aviation Academy as well ... and then just being a member of the community,” Simmons said, “all of those rolled into just an itch for public service and passion about air service and the airport and how the airport can serve the community and help with economic development as well as with leisure travel and just connecting other cities and destinations with us.”

Simmons holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Georgia Tech University, and another master’s from Georgia State University.

Smith takes vice chairman role

With Simmons vacating the position to take over as chairman, Jeff Smith has been named the board’s new vice chairman.

Smith is the executive vice president for operations at UT-Battelle LLC, a non-profit scientific research and community service organization in Oak Ridge. He also serves as deputy for operations at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Smith, who has been an Airport Authority board member since 2005, is also on the Tennessee Valley Authority board.

“I think (Smith) is very capable of being the vice chairman. ... He was on the board when I joined, so he has an even longer tenure than I do on the board,” Simmons said.

“He has a lot of experience out in Oak Ridge with running big organizations and dealing with all the different government entities that are involved in the public-private partnership,” Simmons added.

Smith is a private pilot with a Federal Aviation Administration repairman’s certificate, and a member of both the Experimental Aircraft Association and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the release states.

“He’s a pilot, very passionate about aviation as well,” Simmons said. “So he’s an asset for us for sure.”

Moving ahead amid turbulence

The promotions of Simmons and Smith come at a timely moment for the Airport Authority.

Simmons said the airport is currently crafting a strategic plan to help both the board and staff “understand where the airline industry is and where it’s going, as well as where the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority can be of best use and utilize our assets in providing our services to the community.”

“Conducting that strategic plan is important,” Simmons said. “It will help us prepare for the future, even in these uncertain times we’re in with the pandemic.”

“(Becoming chairman is) just an opportunity to help hold the steering wheel of the airport while we move forward in these turbulent times,” Simmons said.

Follow @TylerWombles on Twitter for more from cops/courts reporter Tyler Wombles.

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