Before joining TSA, Hatfield worked in public relations, as a lobbyist and as a White House event planner in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.Â W. Bush. Hatfield also worked on the campaigns of those presidents, and once helped plan a summer concert tour for the Beach Boys. His resume is not without some law-enforcement experience: For three years in the 1980s, he was a sworn reserve officer for the Portland, Ore., Police Department, where he made arrests and carried a gun, he said.
Experts believe Newark Liberty would be particularly attractive to terrorists. United Flight 93 demonstrated as much, as does the airport's proximity to prime terror targets. Manhattan's towering high-rises are only a minute or two away by air, as are downtown Newark and New Jersey's chemical plants and refineries.
Hatfield, 45, has his supporters. They say he is extremely capable and brings depth of experience from his many years working as a spokesman and political advance man in the federal government. They say Hatfield also has learned a great deal during his nearly four years with the TSA.
Some of that time was spent at the agency's Washington headquarters, where he attended senior daily intelligence briefings. Hatfield actively participated in detailed discussions at the agency's highest levels about security incidents and problems at the nation's airports, officials said.
Hatfield signed on with the agency in November 2002 as a media spokesman for the Northeast United States. A year later, he was named TSA's assistant administrator and head of its communications office.
In September 2005, the agency named Hatfield as the deputy security director at Newark Liberty. George Nacarra, who was then TSA's Northeast region director, says he recommended Hatfield for that job and believes he now makes an excellent security director at Newark Liberty, which last year served more than 33 million passengers.
"The qualities that are most important for this job are strong leadership, the ability to get along with people -- someone who projects enthusiasm, authority and self confidence," said Nacarra, who is now TSA's chief at Boston Logan Airport. "I felt Mark had all of these attributes."
Nacarra also said Hatfield had good relations with the media and had been the head of marketing and public relations at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in the late 1990s. The Port Authority operates Newark Liberty, as well as JFK, La Guardia and Teterboro airports.
David Stone, a retired Navy rear admiral who headed TSA from 2003-2005, said he, too, found Hatfield to be an effective leader and highly competent at his job. Stone said he has no qualms about having Hatfield run a major security operation.
"I think he's a very, very appropriate candidate for Newark Airport," Stone said.
Hatfield was appointed as acting Newark TSA chief in March after the departure of his predecessor, Marcus Arroyo, a former Navy SEAL and Federal Aviation Administration security official. Arroyo departed under fire amid reports of security lapses at the airport.
Hatfield said he already has changed things for the better at Newark Liberty.
Under his leadership, he said, employee absenteeism and injuries are down, test scores are higher and discipline has been tightened.
"This is really my life passion right now, and I think the team I've got is really working well," Hatfield said.
Boyd, who is president of an aviation industry consulting firm in Colorado, says he believes that Hatfield won the post because of his high-octane GOP contacts in Washington.
"The only thing he's got going for him is his political connections," Boyd said. "This is a guy who is a political hack. He's going to put together a security plan for Newark [Liberty]? We might as well hire a grammar school to do it and make it a class project."
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