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Jim Panknin, a JimsAir pilot and former Marine, has been appointed to a vacant seat on the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority – an agency being sued by his employer.

Panknin, 45, will take the seat of Lemon Grove Mayor Mary Teresa Sessom, one of five board members whose terms expire in early December. He currently serves as chairman of the authority’s advisory committee and spent 20 years in the Marine Corps, including a three-year-stint as Miramar’s community liaison officer.

Panknin, who served on the executive committee of the anti-Miramar-airport fundraiser No on Prop A, has been a vocal opponent of the airport authority’s recent failed ballot measure, which proposed building a commercial airport at the Marine base. Sessom was similarly critical, dubbing the authority’s three-and-a-half-year search the “march to Miramar.”

Panknin acknowledged that he’ll have to excuse himself when the authority discusses the JimsAir suit. But he said he hopes to bring an “operator’s perspective” to the board.

The Santee resident shares Sessom’s criticisms of the airport authority’s master plan, which is in the process of being updated. It calls for adding parking and building 10 new gates at Terminal 2.

“It was designed to be a Band-Aid and to create revenue to build Miramar,” Panknin said. “It wasn’t necessarily built to be our airport for the future. You need to step back and take a breath and say: Does this work into being our airport in the future? It does nothing for the cargo carriers, for the general aviation.”

Panknin, a North Carolina native, suggested that a second runway at Lindbergh Field could be a “viable option,” though he said he doubts such a project would be necessary.

Panknin was unanimously appointed by four East County mayors: Sessom, Santee Mayor Randy Voepel, La Mesa Mayor Art Madrid and Poway Mayor Mickey Cafagna.

If they are confirmed, Bob Watkins and Alan Bersin will join Panknin on the authority. Two of the authority board’s nine appointments are still uncertain. New members are sworn in next week.

Bersin and Watkins have been nominated for the authority’s three-member executive committee. Those seats pay $150,000 annually. Panknin’s seat would pay a $100 stipend for each meeting he attends.

ROB DAVIS

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