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NFTA board narrows choice for commissioner to two

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority failed to name a new executive director during its Monday board of commissioners meeting but narrowed its choice to two internal candidates.

It is now expected commissioners will choose between Kimberley A. Minkel and William R. Vanecek -- two top NFTA administrators -- at a meeting next week, according to acting Chairman Henry M. Sloma.

A third finalist, Sunil Harman, an official with the agency that runs Miami International Airport, is no longer under consideration, Sloma said.

"It's a huge dilemma because we have highly qualified people, and it's hard to decide," Sloma said after an executive session. "But we are particularly interested in our internal candidates because they obviously have a certain knowledge, and they're great people."

Sloma said he expects individual commissioners to interview the two remaining candidates between now and next Tuesday, when he has tentatively scheduled a special meeting to arrive at a decision.

The authority will now choose between:

Vanecek, the NFTA's director of aviation, who has been overseeing administration of Buffalo Niagara and Niagara Falls international airports.

Prior to joining the NFTA, the certified public accountant worked for Price Waterhouse and AMR Corp. in Dallas, where he was vice president of finance for Simmons Airlines, American Eagle's largest regional air carrier, according to the NFTA website.

Vanecek, 50, received bachelor's degrees in both accounting and finance from the University at Buffalo and an MBA from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Minkel, director of health, safety and environmental quality for the NFTA, who has more than 20 years' experience in environmental and safety regulations, as well as compliance managing, according to her NFTA biography.

She began her career in 1989 at Sevenson Environmental Services, where she was responsible for field and laboratory data, system audits and employee safety evaluations.

She later held similar posts with Washington Mills Electro Minerals Corp. and Xerox Corp.

Minkel, 45, earned a bachelor's degree from Niagara University in 1988 and an MBA in concentration management from Canisius College in 1995.

The need to name a new executive director of the transit authority stems from the retirement of veteran NFTA official Lawrence M. Meckler, who Monday presided over his last board meeting. Commissioners honored Meckler for his 34 years of service (12 as executive director) with a standing ovation.

"I hope whoever takes your place can do just half the job that you have done," Sloma, speaking for the board, told Meckler. "You will be missed. It won't be the same."

Meckler thanked the board, his top staff and the more than 1,600 NFTA employees.

"I did all I could and have not left anything on the table," he said. "I will be your strongest fan. You will not find a better organization or better people than here at the NFTA."

In other action the board:

Approved its $190.5 million budget that preserves the $1.75 fare.

Announced parking fees will be instituted at Niagara Falls International Airport on Jan. 1.

e-mail: rmccarthy@buffnews.com

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