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Extension of interim airport manager's term hits snag

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Faced with a June 1 deadline to extend an agreement with its interim airport manager, the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Commission Tuesday hit a snag when Rick Adair took offense at a motion that would have prohibited him from being considered for the job.

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The commissioners split 2-2 on Commissioner Jeff Czeczok’s motion to increase Adair’s pay to $32 an hour, have him serve until a replacement is found and not allow him to be considered for the full-time post. The motion failed on a tie vote with Czeczok and Kevin Goedker voting yes and Rachel Reabe Nystrom and Beth Pfingsten voting no.

The sticking point revolved around Adair stating he would not continue serve if he was automatically ruled out for the permanent job. He has not applied for the post and has not decided if he will, he said after the meeting. He said he wants the option of applying to be available to him.

“That’s not right,” the former airport commissioner said of that section of the motion. “It kind of hurts. I was good enough to take this over. I just feel hurt about it.”

Commissioners Nystrom and Goedker indicated surprise that Adair might be interested in the full-time post.

“I’m flabbergasted,” Nystrom said.

In discussing Adair’s performance the commissioners said they had received numerous comments from people who said how pleased they were with his management style. They also praised Adair for performing the job at a pay rate of only 25 percent of what his predecessor was earning — a figure Adair estimated was about $9.97 an hour.

When he took over as interim manager, an appointment that was expected to last only until June 1, commissioners (including Adair) agreed he would not be considered for the permanent airport manager job. In part, commissioners said Tuesday, that stipulation was made because a former airport commissioner had stepped down after he was found to have a conflict of interest relating to his business and the remodeling of the airport terminal.

While acknowledging he accepted the interim post on those conditions Adair said many people have urged him to consider applying for the Brainerd post.

“I would like the option out there,” he said. “I feel I’ve kept it afloat. I think I’ve done a pretty good job.

While discussing Czeczok’s motion Goedker said he was nervous about allowing Adair, a former commissioner, to apply because it “smells” like a conflict of interest issue.

Pfingsten said the airport commission wants to get the best person for the job and Adair should be allowed to apply.

Adair said he turned down the airport manager’s job at Warroad because of his commitment to fill in at Brainerd. He is not provided with benefits or vacation in his current capacity as interim airport manager.

After Czeczok’s motion that ruled Adair out as job candidate failed, Nystrom attempted to make a similar motion without the stipulation that Adair wouldn’t be considered. Her motion died for lack of a second.

The failure of the second motion sent commissioners to their calendars in order to schedule a special meeting. Chair Andy Larson was out of town Tuesday and the commission directed staff to contact him with options next week for a special meeting.

By Tuesday afternoon the commission had set its special meeting for discussion/action on the interim airport manager for 2 p.m. Monday in the airport conference room at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport.

In discussion earlier in the meeting it became clear that although progress has been made, the airport manager search was going to take longer than originally anticipated. Pfingsten said the field of applicants had been tentatively cut down from 47 to 15 and plans call for those 15 to be ranked at the June 7 meeting of the panel which is dealing with the manager search. What will take time, she said, is the background checks which the commission plans to conduct for a new airport manager. Adair currently serves on that search committee and commissioners noted that if he were to apply he would have to remove himself from that process.

Czeczok said he was stunned with Adair’s comments and said he almost felt as if he was being coerced into accepting Adair’s possible application.

“The public’s perceptions of what goes on out here is more important than any one person,” Czeczok.

In other action, the commission:

Heard Adair report that Great Lakes Aviation officials are acquiring planes which they can use when they replace Delta Airlines. Adair thought that might happen toward the end of June or the beginning of July. Reservations would continue to go through Delta systems, the commissioners pointed out.

Set 5 to 8 p.m. Sept. 10 as the time for Tri-annual Emergency Exercise.

Met with Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan, who indicated his office would be able to continue giving general legal advice on occasion but would not be able to staff airport commission meetings.

Learned that the Brainerd City Council will limit the terms of the airport commissioners that it appoints to two three-year terms.

Heard Mike Petersen of Airmotive report that the committee organizing the Aug. 12-14 Barnstormers Parade of Flight at the airport have obtained pledges for in-kind services and about $17,000. Organizers hoped to raise between $16,0000 and $20,000 for the free event, which will feature 14 vintage aircraft.

Learned that Delta boardings were up 3.98 percent compared to the same period last year.

Agreed to pay Danae Blanck Anderson of I.D. Your World half of the first phase design total cost of $3,350 to provide decorating for the newly remodeled terminal.

Received invitations from Goedker to his June 2 wedding.

The commission’s June meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. June 5.

Adjourned until an 11 a.m. May 16 ribbon-cutting for the fire and rescue equipment building at the airport which recently had solar panels installed through a Region 5 grant.

MIKE O’ROURKE may be reached at 855-5860 or mike.orourke@brainerddispatch.com. He may be followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MikeORourkenews.

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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
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