Taking the controls at Cape Air
HYANNIS, Mar 17, 2013 (Cape Cod Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Linda Markham briskly walked down the Cape Air office hallway on Tuesday, offering chipper "good mornings" to every staff member she encountered.
She poked her head into offices to say hi. Heading down a floor to the airline's maintenance division, she warmly greeted employees, sprinkling in a few hugs and jokes along the way.
Markham officially takes over as president of Cape Air and Nantucket Airlines on Monday. But her longstanding connections with staff are clearly obvious.
She's been with the airline since 2002, serving as executive vice president and chief administrative officer since September 2010. In her new job, she replaces retiring Dave Bushy, who has been president since October 2006.
"She's never lost the touch and ability to community one on one with employees with compassion and care," Cape Air founder and CEO Dan Wolf said. "Linda is remarkable in that way."
Markham balances employee support with a strong operational and business mind set, Wolf said.
"She's demonstrated an amazing aptitude and understands the business as well as the company," he said.
Cape Air employs about 1,000 people, including 240 pilots. When she officially takes over, she will be the only female president of a North American airline.
Terry Maxon, who covers the airline industry for the Dallas Morning News, said its a "true rarity" for women to hold one of the top executive spots at airlines, with CEO being the rarest.
"Even president is a lofty position and pretty rare for airlines to put women in that job, for no good reason I know of," he said.
Several airlines have or have had women as chief financial officers, he said.
Colleen C. Barrett was president of Southwest from 2001 to 2008 and now serves as president emerita.
"For Cape Air, it's very natural," Markham said, pointing to the fact that several women serve in leadership roles within the Hyannis-based airline.
Markham was human resources coordinator at the Visiting Nurse Association of Cape Cod before taking a job at Cape Air as manager of human resources.
Up to then, she had never flown on Cape Air.
"As fate would have it, it obviously was the best interview I ever had," she said.
She beefed up the department and rose through the ranks over the years.
"I was really focused on getting the HR department up and running," Markham said. It became the go-to department for benefits, payroll, employee relations, employee travel and recruiting.
"Our customer is our employee," Markham said, explaining her philosophy.
In 2006, she became vice president, heading up strategic planning. She also helped start a leadership training program through the Cape and Islands Workforce Investment Board. About 75 people have been trained since it started in 2011.
That gives the airline a head start when opening in a new city or developing a new program.
"We could select people that went through this training and put them in as project manager. We really like to promote from within," she said.
Cape Air currently flies to 35 locations within the continental United States, in the Caribbean and in Micronesia. It hopes to continue to grow and it currently looking at more locations in the Caribbean, Markham said. It served 17 cities when she came on board.
Markham said the airline will continue to focus on employee support as it grows.
"We think our employees are our most important asset and we want to support the employees we have here," she said.
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