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Adair named interim airport manager

Rick Adair, vice chairman of the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Commission, is the new interim airport manager. He took a leave from the airport commission, a panel he’s served on since 2007, to accept the post as interim airport manager.

In his new post, Adair will earn an amount equal to 25 percent of former Airport Manager Steve Sievek’s salary. Sievek, who was removed from his post Dec 6, was reassigned to a new post of temporary construction coordinator at 75 percent of his airport manager salary. In the motion passed Tuesday by the airport commission it was specified the new interim airport manager would serve until a permanent airport manager is hired or until June 1; that he not be a candidate for the permanent post; and that he not receive benefits. The motion passed unanimously.

“My motivation is to keep the airport thriving,” the retired rural Brainerd resident said when he learned of his appointment.

Adair, who is a pilot and who formerly ran an excavating business, served as temporary volunteer airport manager since Dec. 6. The aviation enthusiast said he has two years left on his commission term.

Beth Pfingsten, chair of the airport commission, said before Adair’s appointment that she had talked to employees and tenants and had heard no negative comments about Adair’s brief tenure as a temporary volunteer manager. She said he has been a visible presence at the airport, working most days from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the volunteer position. She said she had received professional advice indicating there would be no conflict of interest in his accepting this temporary role. She said at 25 percent of the former airport manager’s salary, Adair would make less than $10 an hour.

Airport commission member Kevin Goedker, who also serves on the Brainerd City Council, said Adair’s appointment might look strange to observers and urged a clarification of the commission’s reasons for the appointment.

Rachel Reabe Nystrom, a commission and Crow Wing County Board member, said 2011 has not been the airport commission’s best year and they would be glad to turn the page on the calendar. She said there has been a confidence crisis in leadership, an apparent reference to conflict of interest charges and the removal of longtime Airport Manager Sievek.

“We have everything to go forward with this first-class facility,” she said.

Pfingsten said the airport commission has been frugal with the public’s money.

“We’re not costing the taxpayers any more money,” she said.

The chair also commended Adair’s efforts on behalf of the city- and county-owned airport.

“He’s committed,” she said when Adair left the room and commissioners discussed his appointment. “He loves that airport.”

When commissioners explained the motion on his appointment to the interim post, Adair responded positively.

“I’ll accept that,” he said. “Obviously, not for the money.”

Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Stunek and airport employee Mike Arnold both spoke favorably of the job Adair has done so far.

In a separate motion the commission adopted a temporary construction coordinator job description for Sievek. The description said the person would perform oversight for ongoing construction projects at the airport including the terminal remodel, Runway 12/30 abandonment and remodeling efforts in the ARFF maintenance building and the General Aviation building. Sievek will work under the general direction of the appointed airport manager. The motion was amended to call for the construction coordinator to work 40 hours a week with an hourly wage.

The commission, which met at the county administrator’s conference room at the Historic County Courthouse, also authorized Pfingsten to sign a severance package for Sievek, who will retire June 1, with accrued vacation going into effect in April.

Goedker said the city on Monday voted to set the council’s contribution to the airport at 155,500 instead of 160,500, which had been considered. He said he believed the county board had not yet taken final action on its contribution.

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at or 855-5860.

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860