The National Hurricane Center is looking for a new director.
After four storm seasons, Bill Read is calling quits as head of the hurricane center, prompting a national search for his replacement.
“I’ve done pretty much all I set out to do in this 40 year adventure,” said Read, 62, who started his federal career in 1971 with the U.S. Navy and was installed as hurricane center director in January 2008.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the center in Miami-Dade County, would like the next director to be in place by June 1, the date Read’s retirement becomes effective as well as the official start of the hurricane season.
Read said he is retiring because he would like to work part-time and because he thinks it would benefit a new director to be named in time to work through an entire season. At the time he was hired, he said he intended to be director for five years.
The immediate front-runner is the center’s deputy director, Ed Rappaport, should he decide to apply. Rappaport was considered the leading contender in 2007, when the position was last opened. But he declined the opportunity, saying it was a personal decision.
Further, the hurricane center has a history of promoting deputy directors. Max Mayfield, for instance, was promoted from deputy director to director in 2000, after Jerry Jarrell stepped down. Mayfield went on to become a household name after guiding the nation through the tumultuous 2004 and 2005 seasons.
On Saturday, Rappaport was unavailable for comment.
Rappaport, deputy director since 2000, has been acting director during times of transition. In a question-and-answer feature on the hurricane center’s web site, he was asked if he wanted the director job permanently.
“To date, the circumstances have not been right for me to be the director full time. But I will consider it the next time the opportunity arises,” he answered in June.
When Read took over as director in 2008, he brought an end to one of the the most turbulent times in the hurricane center’s history.
He replaced Bill Proenza, who in 2007 warned the demise of a weather satellite would compromise storm predictions, triggering a staff revolt. Hurricane specialists said Prozena was hurting public confidence in their forecasts. Further, Proenza was intimidating employees, according to an independent report.
Top management at NOAA removed Proenza in July 2007 and subsequently returned him to his previous position as director of the Southern Region of the National Weather Service.
Read was credited with helping to restore order with a low-key management style. In terms of dealing with U.S hurricane strikes, his tenure as director has been relatively quiet.
He oversaw forecasting operations through Hurricanes Dolly, Gustuv and Ike, which struck the Gulf Coast in 2008, and Hurricane Irene, which hit the East Coast in August. Otherwise, no hurricanes struck Florida, historically the most storm-battered state in the nation, while he was director.
“It’s been quite a ride and I’m blessed to hit the exit ramp in my career after working with you all,” Read said in a memo to his staff on Friday.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun