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The longtime director of Salt Lake International Airport has taken a job in Florida.

Louis E. Miller was hired last week by the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority to replace the retiring director at Tampa International Airport, according to the Tampa Bay Business Journal.Miller has made no public statement regarding his departure, and administrators at the Salt Lake airport on Wednesday as well as directors of the Salt Lake Airport Authority said they have received no word of his resignation.

But rumors have been in the mill for some weeks, and Miller apparently is leaving Utah for a sizable pay raise. His current salary is $118,800, according to Salt Lake airport officials. The Tampa Journal reported Miller is negotiating a salary in Florida that will range from $147,201 to $220,802.

"He's the best airport director in the country," said Jake Garn, vice-chairman of the Salt Lake Airport Authority. Garn said he was surprised Miller, 48, hasn't left sooner because the salary offered locally is not competitive with other major airports.

"If, in fact, he's leaving, I greatly regret it," said Garn, who has been a director for three years but whose association with Miller preceded that during Garn's tenure in the U.S. Senate.

Miller has been director of the Salt Lake airport for 13 years, presiding over an era of explosive growth fueled largely by a continuing air-fare war between Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines.

Salt Lake International during the early 1990s has been second only to Las Vegas in terms of growth.

Miller's move - though it comes with more money - is to a considerably smaller market. Tampa, according to figures from the Federal Aviation Administration, boarded 5,361,000 passengers during the 12 months that ended Sept. 30, 1995. Salt Lake, by comparison, boarded 8,420,000. Salt Lake's ranking in numbers of boarded passengers was 21st in the country; Tampa's was 29th.

Miller will likely be replaced by the interim appointment of John Wheat, 45, deputy director of the airport. Wheat joined the airport's administrative staff in 1983 and was named deputy director in 1992. Mayor Deedee Corradini will nominate Miller's replacement to be approved by the airport's board of directors.

Garn said directors will look for an individual "both skilled in the daily operations but also able to handled expansion."

During the next few years, Salt Lake International is expected to add a number of new concourses and accompanying facilities.

According to the Tampa Journal, Miller will replace George Bean, who is retiring after holding the directorship for 30 years.

Bean had a long-term contract with the local airport authority; Miller will serve at the pleasure of the board.

Airport officials said Miller is in London this week, continuing efforts to win a direct flight between Salt Lake and Great Britain, a goal that Miller has doggedly but unsuccessfully pursued for years.