Frank Pipia is a man with many hats and is known for wearing each hat well – all with the goal to carry out TSA’s mission and enhance the agency’s partnerships in Wisconsin.
Pipia is TSA Wisconsin’s customer support manager, quality improvement manager, civil rights diversity inclusion agent, legislative affairs liaison, writer/editor, graphic designer, handles public and media relations. You name it, Pipia does it.
One of TSA’s key partners in the Badger State took notice. Pipia earned the Blue Light Award from the Wisconsin Airport Management Association for excellence in reporting Wisconsin aviation news and information.
“I make every effort to consistently connect with airport directors and their representatives to keep them up to date with new or changed processes,” Pipia described. “I identify and arrange media opportunities, one-on-ones with each airport since the messaging for each may vary. I facilitate TSA PreCheck® pop-up events to help TSA stay on top of our promotion efforts to enroll more passengers.”
Pipia also has close relationships with the state’s non-commercial airports and coordinates TSA outreach efforts with community groups such as colleges, travel agencies, local hospitals and medical facilities to address the TSA Cares program to help travelers with disabilities, medical conditions and other special circumstances go through airport screening.
“The TSA Cares program has grown ten-fold in Wisconsin,” said Pipia. “I personally offer groups to come in person to tour the airport and do practice runs through security. This has proven to reduce the anxiety of our special passengers, and some have even traveled for the first time after gaining a better understanding how to travel with their specific disability or medical needs.”
TSA’s partnerships across Wisconsin include aviation and surface transportation operators, cargo facilities, airport vendors, city and county executives and law enforcement.
“TSA Wisconsin has gained so much respect for being a transparent partner,” noted Pipia, whose role is to maintain contact, suggest opportunities and support each other. “It’s like a friendship. You have to work at it, and that is exactly what I do. Our partners feel comfortable and trust us.”
Pipia also had a hand in the launch of TSA Wisconsin’s new partnership with the Oshkosh-based Experimental Aircraft Association, a group of more than 200,000 aviation enthusiasts that hosts one of the largest fly-in events in the world with over 10,000 experimental aircraft.
Connections with Congress, TSA pay equity
Pipia views Congress as a key TSA partner and makes sure he stays in touch with Wisconsin’s congressional delegation.
“When Congress is in recess, I invite members of Congress and our state senators to visit our airports to update them on the important things TSA does,” he explained. “They get a first-hand look at all the hard work and accomplishments our workforce delivers to the flying public. Providing them with updates and demonstrations on new technology and equipment, our efficiency and overall security operations gives them a better understanding of what we do.”
Through his strong congressional connections, Pipia this year took the opportunity to remind them of the tremendous pay gap between TSA’s frontline employees and their counterparts in the rest of federal government. The president’s fiscal year 2023 budget would fix that by bringing TSA on equal footing. The budget is still in the House and Senate as they try to reach agreement while the federal government continues to operate under FY22 funding levels through December 16.
“The opportunity to meet with Congress is to directly deliver the Administrator’s most current and hot topics,” said Pipia. “I prepare a welcome binder, which is personalized for our guests, and included is the Administrator’s efforts to promote pay equity. We reiterate the Administrator’s most important initiatives in a roundtable discussion. These visits are incredibly beneficial. We also have the opportunity to show off our awesome officers we are so proud of and the important job they do every day.”
Wearing hats well for TSA
Pipia started his TSA career by assisting with the agency’s federal rollout across the country.
This summer, Pipia celebrated his 20-year anniversary with TSA by serving on a national team that was instrumental in developing the new Innovation Doctrine, a guiding document that encourages innovative thinking and defines the agency’s critical next steps after two decades of growth.
Customer service and clarifying TSA processes so others can better understand are two of his top motivators. He admits it’s a huge challenge dealing with angry passengers.
“It’s very satisfying when a passenger’s anger turns into laughter; people just want to be heard and validated,” Pipia said. “It’s up to me to establish the validity of a complaint and defend our officers. I enjoy the challenge to take the negatives and turn them into positives. There’s a real art to deal with passengers.”
In honoring Pipia with its Blue Light Award, the Wisconsin Airport Management Association wrote, “Frank is the TSA stakeholder manager in Wisconsin. In his role, he wears many hats, all of them well. … Frank is a steadying presence, relaying to the public the positive things airports implemented to keep the traveling public safe.”
By Don Wagner, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs