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AIRPORT COMMISSION: Wig accepts personnel committee's salary offer

It’s a done deal. Almost.

Jeff Wig Wednesday told the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Commission personnel committee he was willing to accept the salary and benefits conditions offered for the airport manager position. The personnel committee, which includes airport commissioners, Beth Pfingsten, Rachel Reabe Nystrom and Kevin Goedker met Tuesday to discuss the salary package with Wig.

Commissioner Pfingsten said in Tuesday’s meeting that the committee based the salary package offered on similar managerial positions in the city of Brainerd including the chief of police who earns $86,745 annually and the fire chief who earns $80,845 annually.

The salary offered for the manager position in the initial interview process ranged from $68,700 - $80,800 depending on experience.

The package Wig has agreed to will include a preliminary annual salary of $76,760. The initial salary offered would last through a six-month probation period then, pending successful probation period, increase to $80,800 annually.

Pfingsten said, according to her calculations, the initial salary is approximately 95 percent of the final salary amount offered or $155.00 less per pay period.

The committee expressed confidence that Wig will serve a successful probation period, but felt that it was in the best interest of the taxpayers funding the airport manager position to give Wig a chance to settle into his job before offering the top tier salary. “It’s their money,” Pfingsten said. “We are stewards of public dollars and public perception is very important.

“I think we need to have him prove he is up to the challenge.”

Wig told the committee that he knew they had to do what was overall best for the airport to which Commissioner Rachel Reabe Nystrom said, “You are what is overall best for the airport.”

Wig said Tuesday that he felt the offer was fair. “I know the offer put on the table is a strong vote of confidence and I really appreciate that,” Wig said.

Wig, the dean of career and technical programs at Central Lakes College did express that the airport salary offered is a pay cut from his current position at the college, but one he is willing to take. “This is just a job I’ve wanted for many, many years,” Wig said. “It’s a position that has always interested me.”

Wig’s salary at Central Lakes College is approximately $85,500.

Wig applied for the position of airport manager as a young man, but was passed over for someone more qualified. “It’s exciting to me to work in aviation” he said. “It’s the only thing that would take me away from my passion for education.”

Wig said before taking over as airport manager he has responsibilities to finish up at the college including overseeing disbursement of college’s the $13 million Department of Labor grant. “This is not a job you can just give two weeks notice for,” Wig said, expressing his desire to end his time at the college well. “I just want to make sure everything is taken care of before I go.”

Commissioner Pfingsten said the personnel committee will present the salary and benefits package to the entire airport commission at the next regularly scheduled meeting, Dec. 6. Pending commission approval, Wig hopes to start his position at the airport in mid- to late January 2013.

SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at or 855-5879.