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Mary Leftridge Byrd TSA director at Hartsfield-Jackson

By Maria-Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

After dining out with her husband recently, Mary Leftridge Byrd said she decided to stop by her job, at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, to check on security checkpoint areas.

Leftridge Byrd, who is the federal security director for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at Hartsfield-Jackson, said her husband came along with her, and waited in the atrium of the airport, while she checked on TSA operations.

"I am very serious about this [job] because you don't get a lot of do-over moments," said Leftridge Byrd.

Leftridge Byrd said she began work as federal security director at the airport on April 12, 2009, and that she is responsible for coordinating airport-related TSA operations with local and federal agencies, and with airlines at Hartsfield-Jackson.

"We work very closely with airlines to make sure they comply with what we are doing," she said.

This collaboration allows for the detection and prevention of threats to air transportation and travelers, she said.

Leftridge Byrd said she applies contemporary principles to business and human resource management for TSA. She also ensures that TSA employees, at Hartsfield-Jackson, are certified and trained, and that their accountability requirements are met, she explained.

"It [TSA operations] is a living thing," said Leftridge Byrd. "It has the arms, the legs, the brain, the eyes and the backbone."

She said her day often involves traveling, meetings and planning.

"There is no routine," said Leftridge Byrd. "... What to expect every day is that your calendar will be written in pencil."

She said she oversees about 20 departments in Atlanta, such as security, passenger and baggage screening, human resources, budget, training and information technology.

Leftridge Byrd said her contribution to public safety, protecting the country and directly working with all TSA employees, make her job challenging and rewarding.

According to Leftridge Byrd, her most memorable experience as federal security director was witnessing the dedication of her colleagues after the Christmas-Day bombing attempt.

Leftridge Byrd was born on Jan. 25, 1949, in Harrisburg, Pa. She said guns and law enforcement drew her interest at a young age.

As a child, she said she repeatedly asked a local police officer to show her his equipment belt, and explain its contents.

She said she was involved in various clubs at Harrisburg High School, such as the social studies club, journalism club and Future Teachers of America.

"My mom wanted me to be a teacher," said Leftridge Byrd.

Leftridge Byrd said that through the social studies club, she was chosen by former Pennsylvania Gov. Raymond Shafer to join 11 other bright students on a trip with the governor to five different cities in the state.

Leftridge Byrd said she graduated from high school in 1967 and received a behavioral science degree from Pennsylvania State University in December 1983.

Leftridge Byrd was a corrections superintendent at State Correctional Institution Muncy, in Muncy, Pa., from January 1991 until July 1998, she said. She was also a superintendent at State Correctional Institution Chester, in Chester, Pa., from July 1998 to March 2003, she added. She managed medium- and maximum-security prisons for men and women, at both institutions.

"I was never scared," Leftridge Byrd said of working in correctional institutions. "And I am not stupid, but never scared."

She said she became deputy secretary for the State of Washington Department of Corrections, in January 2006, where she established goals for managerial, executive and administrative staff serving the Offender Treatment and Programs Division there.

"I was responsible for establishing goals, program initiatives and metrics, [and] directing the investment of $26 million allocated to support offenders in community and prison-based programming, focused on community reentry," she said.

Leftridge Byrd said she left the State of Washington Department of Corrections in March 2009 to fulfill her duties as federal security director for TSA at Hartsfield-Jackson.