Tampa International Airport customers love Traffic Specialist Jerry Sullivan. The evidence: Over the past year he’s received more official compliments from airport customers than any other airport employee. They call him friendly, helpful and kind. Dorothy Davenport described him as a “true southern gentleman” and a “credit to TPA” in a compliment card mailed to the airport last October.
Lillian Chadwick was prompted to write in after a neighbor forgot to pick her up at the airport when she was arriving from Baltimore. She had to wait for two hours in baggage claim one afternoon in January.
“Mr. Sullivan kept coming over to say kind words,” she wrote. “Without his friendly, kind help I don’t know what would have happened to me. I will be 90 in a few days and want to let you know how much it meant to me to have such a caring person there to help me.”
Debbie Williams mailed a comment card in April, after Jerry went the extra mile when her family left a bag in a car.
“He assisted with accommodations,” she wrote. “He is kind, courteous and thinks outside the box.”
Sullivan joined the Aviation Authority 13 years ago as a traffic specialist. In that front-line job at the baggage claim curbside he often finds himself in the tough position of having to get people parked along the curbside to move along and make room for people actively loading bags.
Sullivan says that there are some unhappy drivers who seem ready to argue as he approaches them.
“They’re all ready to say ‘You’re going to tell me to move,’ but instead I tell them about the Cell Phone Waiting Lot, and I tell them about parking in Short Term for 59 minutes for free and all of the changes we’ve made inside with comfortable furniture and free wi-fi and a Starbucks,” he said. “I ask them ‘Why would you want to keep driving around?’ It turns into a great experience for them, and that’s good for us.”
And every time he walks to a car, he said, it’s a chance to meet a new person.
“I have met so many interesting people, people who share stories about where they’ve been or why they have flown here,” he said.
In his spare time, Sullivan goes to baseball games (sports photography is a hobby), cheers for the Notre Dame football team and spends time with his wife and three children, his top priority. They take a two week vacation together every year. He likes working in the garden and do-it-yourself home improvements.
“The way I see it, whether it’s your house or your place of business, you make sure you are doing your part to make the place look its best and that people in it feel happy and welcome,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”