TSA chief at Hartsfield-Jackson to be replaced

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/18/08
The federal agency that provides security at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport will soon put a new boss in charge of its operations there.

Willie Williams, the head of the Transportation Security Administration's Atlanta office, said Wednesday he is being reassigned and that a new interim head of the local office will be named within a few days.

"I've sort of beat the record, being here 6 and 1/2 years," Williams told the AJC. " I guess at 64 I'm just not ready to hang it up."

Williams, who said he will be put in charge of a new national program to coordinate security in airport operations other than checkpoints, is paid about $160,000 a year. He said he is at the top of the pay scale and will not get a raise in his new job.

The TSA is seeking a replacement in Atlanta for Williams, who'll remain in the local post until July 7. The Federal Security Director in Atlanta oversees 1,100 employees at the world's busiest airport. The TSA's Atlanta operation is one of the agency's largest.

Williams and his counterpart in Boston are the only two original TSA airport security directors still on the job, he said. They were hired in early 2002, shortly after the agency was created in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist hijackings. Williams had gained a national reputation as the top police official in Los Angeles during the 1990s, though he had been out of that job for several years when hired by the TSA.

Williams and the agency have come under periodic fire over staffing problems at Hartsfield-Jackson that have led to massive delays at security gates. Wait times during peak periods have at times approached an hour. Airport officials want security waits to be 15-20 minutes or less during the busiest travel times.

Williams said Wednesday that those complaints have nothing to do with his job change.

"The challenge here with the lines has been the configuration," Williams said, pointing out that the airport is now adding additional security gates. "With the new lanes I think that problem will go away."

This past winter, TSA chief Kip Hawley came to Atlanta to inspect the security operation. Members of Georgia's congressional delegation recently wrote Hawley demanding improvements.

Hartsfield-Jackson officials have complained that TSA does not properly staff all security gates during peak travel times, and general manager Ben DeCosta has traveled to Washington to meet with top TSA officials about the issue.

About 89 million passengers a year use Hartsfield-Jackson

Most recently, the agency has shipped in personnel from other airports to assist at Hartsfield-Jackson during the heaviest travel times.

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