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L.A. airport commissioner steps down four years early

August 22, 2011 |  2:52 pm

Zifkin.lanow Walter Zifkin, a former chief executive for William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, has resigned from the Board of Airport Commissioners, where he helped to guide the modernization of Los Angeles International Airport for the last seven years.

Zifkin, 75, who was appointed by Mayor James Hahn in 2004, said he was stepping down to pursue personal interests, including other civic functions and travel. He submitted his resignation last week to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa four years before his current term was to expire.

“It was a tough decision for me,” Zifkin said. “It is a rigorous job and has been for the past seven years. The modernization is going very well, and the Bradley West project will be a beautiful, iconic architectural statement for the city and will improve the passenger experience immeasurably.”

Commissioners set policy for  Los Angeles World Airports, which owns and operates LAX, LA/Ontario International Airport and Van Nuys Airport, a general aviation facility in the San Fernando Valley.

During Zifkin’s tenure, the airport department has worked on a multibillion-dollar program to improve runway safety, remodel the Tom Bradley International Terminal, build a new utility plant and construct  taxiways that can accommodate the next generation of large commercial aircraft, such as the Airbus A380. Agreements also have been reached with airlines to improve several domestic terminals.

The centerpiece of the effort is the Bradley West project, which will add about a million square feet to the Bradley terminal, including new gates and a grand central hall filled with upscale shops and restaurants.

Zifkin, who worked at William Morris for 45 years, said it was a good time to step down because the airport commission is a strong panel of policymakers that has benefited recently from “outstanding” appointments by Villaraigosa.

Zifkin’s former colleagues at the airport described him as a conscientious worker who put in long hours. His institutional knowledge of airport matters will be missed, they said.

“Since Walt began his term in 2004, Los Angeles World Airports has undergone remarkable change,” said Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of the department. “At each milestone, at each moment of decision, at each moment when wisdom and clarity were needed, Walt delivered ideas and judgment grounded in hard work and rare intellectual discipline.”


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-- Dan Weikel

Photo: Walter Zifkin