Before Brian Kennedy began his first day of work as Tampa International Airport’s new Lost and Found Manager, he already had a multi-part plan tucked into a manila folder. He sketched blueprints of a more orderly system of dates and bins and item categories, rather than all lost items being lumped together on shelves. He spent his first three days on the job moving shelves around and putting canes, sunglasses, cell phones, clothing and stuffed animals in their proper places.
“When I came here, I had a vision of what I wanted to do,” said Brian, 37. “I wanted to go above and beyond just logging this stuff in and sticking it on a shelf.”
For a department that handles 1,100 lost items a month, meticulous organization is key, and Brian couldn’t be a more perfect person to handle it. Before coming to work at the Airport Operations Center 10 years ago, he managed the switchboard at a hospital, back before patient rooms and doctors had their own extensions or cell phones and 30,000 calls per month had to be connected through an operator. He also issued various codes and alarms over the PA system.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking at times,” Brian said. “It really geared me up for working at the airport. You really have to know how to prioritize your workspace because there’s so much going on at once.”
Keeping order and sticking to routine was already a huge part of Brian’s makeup. As a child whose mother rarely had to tell him to clean his room, Brian liked to stick to what felt safe and orderly and easily controlled. Always the tallest kid in the class by several inches, Brian remembers an East Lake High coach and principal brought him into an office as a freshman and urged him to join the basketball team. He declined and went on his way. To this day, people constantly ask 6-foot-8 Brian if he played basketball.
“Looking back, I kind of wish someone had pushed me a little harder to try it,” Brian said. “I just didn’t think I’d be good at it.”
In his free time, Brian loves watching documentaries and taking photographs, mainly of buildings, sunsets and the sky. (“It’s much easier than shooting photos of people because you don’t have to ask a building if you can take its picture.”) He has taken several shots of the airport, some of which have been used as profile and cover photos on the airport’s Facebook page. He took a stunning postcard–worthy photo of a colorful sunset over the airport that was recently used as a cover photo for Fox 13 News’ Facebook page.
But Brian’s real focus right now is learning the challenges and rhythm of the Lost & Found Department, which aims to return as many items back to people as possible. He hunts for clues, such as names or numbers in a cell phone’s contacts, and calls strangers to see if they can help. He found a set of keys recently that had a fitness club key tag on them, so he called the club and they were able to locate the keys’ owner.
Sometimes, the orderly stockroom will receive a lost item that makes him scratch his head. What child would let go of a giant pink teddy bear? How did someone walk off without his walker? Why did someone put underwear in a Ziploc bag and leave it behind?
Recently, someone left a single shoe at a TSA checkpoint.
“I don’t understand how that happens,” he said. He filed it away in its proper bin, hoping to eventually hear from the one-shoed owner.