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Airport director search almost finished

Zach Kayser

BEMIDJI— The Bemidji Regional Airport will have a permanent director within the next two months.

The deadline to submit job applications to the Airport Authority Board was Friday. Karen Weller has been serving as interim director since former airport head Harold Van Leeuwen left in December to take a consulting job near Nashville.

At the time, Van Leeuwen said Weller was his preferred choice as a replacement, based in part on her performance as his second-in-command.

“She has 20 years’ experience doing this kind of stuff. She’s highly qualified. She’s very diligent, very enthusiastic,” he said. “But it’s not my decision; it is (the Airport Authority’s) decision. They have to do it in a public way, and meet their public requirements, and they will do that.”

Board member Jack Frost said Friday that although Weller is a standout candidate, it isn’t a foregone conclusion that she’ll be tapped for the job.

“It would take a pretty qualified applicant to shine above her, but I certainly wouldn’t rule it out, either,” he said.

Weller worked for the Metropolitan Airports Commission for 18 years, nine of which were spent managing what was then Humphrey Terminal at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

“It’s definitely what I’ve worked my whole career for,” she said of the job running the Bemidji airport.

However, she didn’t know for sure if it was likely she’d get the job.

“I’d like to think so, but I certainly don’t want to count my chickens before they’re hatched,” she said.

The hiring committee to pick a replacement will be composed of Frost, fellow board member Roger Hellquist and several local members of the aviation and business community.

Frost said a decision could come as soon as the day after interviews take place on Feb. 18, in time to announce it at the Feb. 19 Airport Authority Board meeting. Otherwise, the hiring committee will likely have a director picked out by the next meeting on March 19, he said.

As of Friday afternoon there were four applications submitted, Weller said.

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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