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New airport director has higher salary than outgoing female director

Former airport director not surprised her male replacement being paid more
Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 2:42 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A copy of the contract for the newly hired airport director for Wilmington International Airport shows he will be making more in his first year than the former director was making after 22 years of service to ILM.

On November 3, the Airport Authority voted unanimously to hire Jeffrey Bourk to take over at ILM. A press release notes his 25 years of experience in “the airport business and operations management.” Prior to accepting the job at ILM, Bourk spent 14 years as Executive Director of Branson Airport in Hollistor, MO. The press release says Bourk “built the airport from the ground up.”

Bourk’s contract with ILM gives him a starting salary of $245,000. The former ILM Director, Julie Wilsey, was making $230,457 at the time of her involuntary termination. In addition, Bourk will be getting $800 a month for a car allowance and $75 a month for a cell phone allowance that was not included in Wilsey’s contract.

“I am not surprised the board is paying the incoming Director more than I was paid,” Wilsey told WECT when asked for reaction to Bourk being paid more than her. “Even though I had over 22 years at ILM, my compensation as a woman was disturbing to some board members. So it makes sense that the incoming Director, a white male, was going to be higher paid, regardless of his experience. Regretfully, I am not the first woman in New Hanover County to be replaced by a higher compensated white male.”

Even before Bourk’s salary information was released to WECT following a public records request, some members of the public speculated he’d be paid more Wilsey.

“The airport seems to have plenty of money to waste firing a great director, hiring a tiny airport pilot as director....” one man wrote in an email Friday sent to New Hanover County Commissioners, the Federal Aviation Administration, and a staff member for Sen. Thom Tillis. “I noticed there was no mention of his salary in [a previous WECT] article. I bet he is being paid more than Ms. Wilsey although he is from a much smaller airport. Little white male pay bump in action??”

Bourk and Wilsey are both Accredited Airport Executives. Wilsey is a United States Military Academy at West Point graduate. She served for six years as an Engineer Officer in the US Army after graduation, before coming to work as Deputy Director at ILM in 1999. She was promoted to airport director in 2014 when former Director Jon Rosborough retired. Her starting salary as director was $167,000. While working at ILM, Wilsey earned her MBA from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Prior to his role at Branson Airport (BKG), Bourk was Assistant Airport Manager for Portland International Jetport for six years. He also worked in operations management for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey at Teterboro Airport, and served in a leadership role at White Plains Airport early in his career. Bourk has an MBA from Daniel Webster College, and an undergraduate degree from Embry-Riddle.

ILM is a considerably larger airport than BKG. BKG opened in 2009, and currently has one carrier, Frontier Airlines. According to a local news article written about the airport on its tenth anniversary in 2019, BKG had seven years of national and international airline service at the time, five of which had been year-round service. The airport’s website notes it has served over a million passengers since it opened. By comparison, ILM serves over a million passengers a year, and has three major carriers.

An airport spokeswoman provided little explanation for why Bourk will be paid at least $15,000 more than Wilsey, other than his “experience, achievements, and industry knowledge.”

The reason the airport decided to part ways with Wilsey has never been publicly explained, but the Airport Authority spent $315,000 in public money to compensate her after voting to involuntarily terminate her contract in June. She received an excellent review shortly before that vote, with the Airport Authority Chair noting she came “as close as possible to receiving a perfect score.”

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