Miami-Dade County

Miami airport CEO announces departure. Is his next stop Miami City Hall?

Emilio González, outgoing Miami-Dade aviation director, announces the new Custom and Border Protection app for quick passport screening at Miami International Airport on Aug. 3, 2017. González resigned that position Tuesday, effective Feb. 1.
Emilio González, outgoing Miami-Dade aviation director, announces the new Custom and Border Protection app for quick passport screening at Miami International Airport on Aug. 3, 2017. González resigned that position Tuesday, effective Feb. 1. sballestas@miamiherald.com

Amid rumors that his next destination could be Miami City Hall, the head of Miami International Airport has announced his departure.

Emilio González, a retired Army colonel who has overseen Miami’s massive aviation hub for the past four years, submitted his resignation Tuesday. He’ll officially resign as director and CEO of the airport Feb. 1 but will spend the holidays with his family while burning through a cache of unused leave time until then.

González’s exit from his $265,000-a-year post comes days after Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez stripped him of his role overseeing retail leasing at the airport, which receives about $200 million in revenue from shops, kiosks and restaurants every year. But González said one had nothing to do with the other.

“It sounds kind of corny when people hear you want to spend time with your family, but it’s true. My grandson lives six blocks away and he’s five years old,” González told the Miami Herald. “I took this job because I thought it was exciting and an opportunity to serve. It’s a really cool job. But all along I’d told myself there will come a point where I’ll have to move on.”

González, 60, took the job in 2013 and presided over a $6.5 billion expansion of the airport, one of five that he oversaw in the Miami area. Last year, he watched the international aviation hub handle a record 44.6 million passengers.

During his time as CEO, he has been actively involved in the airport’s growth from a full-service international airport that catered to legacy carriers to a more diverse operation. The county-owned airport now services the most airlines of any U.S airport, 106, including budget and international carriers such as Iceland’s WOW air and Mexico’s Volaris. The airport recently welcomed back Israeli airline El Al after a nine-year hiatus and after courting the airline for several years.

In a video provided to the Miami Herald by a source who wishes to remain anonymous, a man makes it past Miami International Airport security Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, jumps onto a luggage carousel, and sprints onto the airport tarmac. Video has been

González said it was the arrival of that first El Al flight on Nov. 1 when he decided to resign, although he said he’s mulling over several landing spots. He clashed with Gimenez and lobbyists over retail at the airport, but Miami-Dade’s mayor was effusive in announcing González’s departure, which Gimenez said he “reluctantly” accepted.

The outgoing airport director said he is interested in pursuing a new stop on a career that has included a post as director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council at the White House and time in the private sector.

“I’ve been offered opportunities that would cause a conflict of interest were I to pursue them while still being airport director,” González said, declining to discuss his job offers. “I just want to disconnect. Come the first of January is when I’ll start in earnest pursuing those things that interest me the most.”

González’s name constantly pops up among potential candidates for prominent appointed and elected posts. He is rumored to be a leading candidate to become Miami’s next city manager as Mayor-elect Francis Suarez looks to replace the incumbent, who’ll leave by Jan. 10.

But neither Suarez nor González would answer questions about whether they’d spoken about the post.

“I have not made a decision yet” on the next city manager, Suarez said when asked if he’d talked to González about the job.

Whether González ends up working at Miami City Hall in Coconut Grove or not, he’ll likely be spending more time at Dinner Key. He keeps a 21-foot Contender named “At Ease” at Grove Harbour Marina and hopes to get out on the water over the winter. He also plans to spend time doing a whole lot of nothing.

“I’m gonna enjoy the hell out of that boat,” he said. “This has been a good ride. I have very few regrets.”

Miami Herald staff writer Douglas Hanks contributed to this report.

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