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- American politician and pilot
Wolf will step down as CEO on Jan. 1. Markham will assume that position as one of the few female airline CEO's in the world and the only one at a major or regional airline in the U.S. Cape Air employees were told of the executive changes this morning.
"It's the right time for the organization and for Linda," Wolf said in a phone interview Thursday night. "She's just a wonderful person and leader."
Markham is not what many might think of as a traditional CEO. Married, and the mother of three, she is not a business school graduate and she credited her rise through the ranks at Cape Air to hard work.
"I'm just incredibly excited to take on this new role and I'm energized by the opportunities ahead," Markham said in an interview Friday morning.
Markham joined Cape Air in 2002 as manager of human resources and moved quickly up the ladder to director then vice president of human resources by 2006. In 2010, she was named executive vice president and chief administrative officer, then company president in 2014, running the day-to-day operations of the airline for the past seven years.
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For part of that time, Wolf was engaged as a state senator representing the Cape and Islands district for three terms from 2011 to 2017. Wolf seriously considered a run for governor in 2018 against current Gov. Charlie Baker, and unsuccessfully ran in a crowded field in 2014 to fill the seat of Gov. Deval Patrick, who did not run for reelection.
This week Baker said he will not be running for another term, but Wolf, while not directly saying he wasn't going to run, said the timing of his announcement Friday that he was stepping down as Cape Air CEO was purely coincidental.
"A good organization is always engaged in succession planning," Wolf said. "This is something we've been working on at Cape Air for years."
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Who is Linda Markham?
Markham has a degree in business and retail management from Holyoke Community College. She is the former chair of the Regional Airline Association and chair of the nonprofit Women in Aviation International. In 2020, she was elected chairwoman of the board of directors of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.
"She is a really good communicator and a leader from the heart," Wolf said.
"Dan and I share the same values, of putting people first," she said, crediting her background in human resources. Markham said she'd like to use her position as a female CEO to continue to further opportunities for women in the male-dominated aviation field.
Cape Air's place in the airline industry
According to a profile on Markham on the Cape Air website, the company had approximately 300 employees, and flew to 17 cities when she started in 2012. Wolf said it now has around 800 employees, flies to 38 cities in the U.S. and Caribbean and grossed roughly $105 million this past year.
A press release announcing the handover said Cape Air is one of the largest commuter airlines in the U.S. It has been employee-owned and based in Hyannis. Wolf started the company in 1989 with one route flying three flights a day between Boston and Provincetown with 8,000 passengers annually.
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Cape Air now has 100 aircraft making 400 flights a day carrying a half-million passengers a year.
All that growth happened despite some tough years; a couple of severe recessions, 9/11, and now a global pandemic entering its third year.
"The airline industry is highly capital-intensive, highly regulated and competitive. Any time there's a shock to the economy and society, the airline industry is first in and last out," Wolf said. After COVID-19 hit in March 2020 and everything shut down, Cape Air's business, like that of all airlines, plunged to zero by April.
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It was a rough road back that required government assistance, but Wolf said the airline industry is always facing challenges and that did not weigh in as part of his decision to step down.
"Part of what is enjoyable is facing challenges and addressing them," he said. "We're ahead of where we were three years ago, pre-COVID."
Wolf said the company did not currently have further expansion plans on the table, but was always looking for opportunities.
"We are a growth company and I see growth in our future," he said.
Future issues facing Cape Air
One of the biggest challenges facing Cape Air and the airline industry in general is finding qualified pilots and aircraft technicians, Markham said. COVID-19 decimated the ranks of airline employees, especially pilots, with layoffs and early retirements.
Markham said Cape Air has been able to partner with pilot schools, Jet Blue and the LIFT Academy pilot training program to develop pilots. Cape Air also worked with Cape Cod Community College to institute an airplane power mechanic certification program.
"These are very good-paying jobs," she said.
Wolf will remain as chairman of the company's board of directors and will work on some strategic and long-term projects such as plans to bring inelectric planes to replace the current gas-powered planes. He also sits on the boards of directors at Cape Cod Five and Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown and chairs the board of the Aids Support Group.
Wolf turns 65 this year and he and his wife recently became grandparents. He has three daughters, two of whom live off Cape, and he sees more visits and some travel.
"I'll stay engaged at Cape Air, but any time you've been at something for 33 years, it's a good time to sit back and regroup," Wolf said.
Contact Doug Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dougfrasercct.
This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Dan Wolf, Cape Air founder/CEO, stepping down; Linda Markham to lead