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The Faces of BWI Marshall

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BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport can be a different place to different people. Aside from being an entry point to the skies, it’s a transportation center, as well as an economic development generator. It’s a workplace and a great place to people watch. And it has a recently updated observation deck that makes it a gathering place, often for business, but sometimes for civic and social purposes.

Some observers even consider it a small city, and a city is filled with many people who offer different strengths and services. On that note, here just some of those very folks that one might encounter at the airport and in the BWI Business District.

Ben Chin, Maryland Aviation Administration

People who value longevity in the workplace would like Ben Chin, BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport’s director of design and construction. He started working with the then-State Aviation Administration (SAA) in 1973. He was a summer intern, cutting grass and painting runways.

It wasn’t glorious, but it was dutiful summer employment and a conduit to his future: When he graduated from the University of Maryland in 1977 with a degree in civil engineering, he also had his first “real” job, in field maintenance with the SAA.

And Chin’s timing was impeccable. “We were going through the first terminal expansion program, just after the state bought the airport from the city,” he said, noting how he located utilities on maps.

While Chin started in design, now he’s in construction, too. Much of his time is spent in design meetings, with his recent focus on the Federal Aviation Administration’s $350 million runway safety program; his crew is finishing runway 15R-33L. The next phase encompasses updating various taxiways.

It’s obvious that Chin is enjoying a great run. “Even when I was a little kid, I used to go to Pier C and watch the planes take off,” he said. “The people here have treated me well, the projects are interesting, and it doesn’t take long to get approvals, like it does for highway projects. We finish projects, big and small, in [a reasonable] length of time.”

Adriene Jones, Southwest Airlines

Adriene Jones said her days begin in a “fairly normal” fashion, but what happens as the hours pass can be anything but. The customer service manager with Southwest Airlines might end up virtually anywhere at BWI Marshall, though she’s usually around the airlines’ check-in, boarding and baggage service areas.

In her position, Jones may need to douse “a host” of fires, from someone missing a flight or an elderly person who is embarking on his or her first trip.

“Recently, we had a couple that had adopted a baby who flew from the west coast to Baltimore to introduce the baby to family — but the family came to the airport to surprise her,” she said, noting that she and the staff got the family through security to arrange the happy reunion. “You should have seen the look on the mother’s face.”

Then there was the group of nine soldiers who came in from their military tour and were supposed to fly (on another airline) to Puerto Rico before they redeployed. After those arrangements fell through, the TSA reprocessed them, then rebooked the group on Southwest. “We got them to their destination, all together, without their missing any vacation time, this past Memorial Day weekend,” she said.

“We try to go above and beyond for our customers,” she said. “Those are the kind of people we get to work here.”

JoAnn Reeping, BWI Workforce Counter

Have you ever wanted to work at the airport? If so, call Joann Reeping at the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corp.’s BWI Workforce Center, who was recently hired full-time after volunteering last fall.

The airlines do their own hiring, and the Maryland Aviation Administration has its own human resources office, but if you’re looking for employment at one of BWI Marshall’s many BAA retail outlets or at one of the other businesses that serve the airport, like National Aviation Services or Flight Service Systems (FSS), Reeping is your point-of-contact. She works from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. weekdays, with a counter open from 10 a.m.–3 p.m.

The center had a grand re-opening in its new, larger downstairs quarters in April, after American Airlines expanded into the center’s former upstairs location. “We just did a hiring event here for FSS,” she said, “which the old space was too small for.”

The center is located in baggage claim at Door No. 8. It sounds like Reeping’s been busy of late, too. “We hand out at least 30 applications a day,” much of it to serve the airport’s retailers, Reeping said, adding, “I think getting to work at the airport has gotten easier,” noting commuter options like the MTA buses and light rail, as well as the employee parking lot.

Calvin Singletary, PreFlight Airport Parking

Let’s say you’ve just flown in to BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport from the West Coast. It’s about 1 a.m. on a Thursday. You’re standing at the lower level pickup circle, weary and waiting for your shuttle of choice.

Little do you know that you just might be picked up by a gentleman whom his boss describes as “blowing at the seams with energy” — as well as offering enjoyable conversation, courteous treatment, great vibes and plenty of bottled water.

If that was your experience, you’ve met Calvin Singletary, who has been shuttling for PreFlight Airport Parking (with the red and black vans) for about 12 years and is described by PreFlight General Manager Christine Bolewski as “incredibly intelligent and articulate.

“Another thing that sets him apart is his chivalry,” she said. “He was raised by a very strong mother who taught him to treat women with the utmost respect, in a way that doesn’t offend the man in the picture.”

The overnight shift might not seem the place for such as live wire, but it’s worked for Singletary. “There are people who will bring him birthday cakes. And he remembers their birthdays, too,” Bolewski said. “He’s taken ownership of his position. There is never a shadow of a doubt that, if Calvin’s on duty, the customer service will be stellar.”

Tony Storck, Maryland Aviation Administration

In 1987, Jay Hierholzer, then director of BWI Airport’s marketing department, discussed the merits of a young airport employee named Tony Storck with colleague Linda Greene, who now runs the BWI Business Partnership. Both were impressed by the international business major from Towson State; soon thereafter, Storck was working with them.

When glancing at Storck’s résumé, one might think he’s had several jobs during his MAA career. That’s true, but they’ve always been about getting the public, the media and businesses happily involved at BWI Marshall.

Storck started at the airport working for Traveler’s Aid; when hired by the MAA, he was on the old communications center, then public relations, marketing, publications, finance, statistical analysis and terminal planning; he’s now serving his second stint as director of air service development and strategic analysis, which concerns offering analysis to carriers now serving BWI “and those we hope to attract about market opportunities, the region and BWI Marshall.”

He thinks that there might be 20 MAA employees still working at the airport from his early days. “I feel that there has been much connection between my jobs, he said, adding, “I think I’ll end up retiring from the airport. What I’ll be doing then depends on the need.”

Lou Zagarino, Whitehall Management

Even if you don’t know Lou Zagarino, you’ve probably seen him. It may have been around Friendship (yes, Friendship) Airport when he worked at the Holiday Inn-BWI Airport (now the Doubletree), or later, when he managed the recently demolished Sheraton BWI (which closed as the Four Points by Sheraton BWI Airport). Or many places since.

Zagarino’s the guy who bought and renovated the old Lancer’s Pub and turned it into The Rose, the long-time neighborhood anchor of North Linthicum; built the Comfort Inn behind it; then the Sleep Inn (now the Best Western) beside it. He long ago became an icon of what has come to be known as the BWI Business District.

After selling his business interests around 2008, Zagarino founded Whitehall Management LLC, though he has long shared his knowledge to the board of the BWI Business Partnership, where he is a past board chair; and the boards of the University of Maryland Medical System, Baltimore Washington Medical Center, the Annapolis & Anne Arundel County Conference & Visitor’s Bureau, the Chesapeake Arts Center and SKAL International USA.

These days, the man who is frequently known as “Mr. Z” (of course) is excited about recent development in the district, notably with the uptick at BWI Marshall’s international terminal. “We’re really, finally, getting some traction with that market,” he said, “and I think we’re going to see some big things.”