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Weller chosen as Bemidji airport director

BEMIDJI -- The months-long process of replacing former Bemidji Regional Airport director Harold Van Leeuwen came to an end Wednesday.

Karen Weller, who was serving as interim director, was chosen to hold the position permanently at the Airport Authority Board meeting. Van Leeuwen stepped down in December to take a consulting job in Tennessee.

"It's exciting, very exciting," Weller said Thursday. "I'm really looking forward to the next few years, and developing the airport into what the users want and need."

Board member Roger Hellquist said Friday that Weller's experience was a key factor in her selection.

"She's got quite a number of years with the aviation industry," he said. "As we went down the line, it matched up well with what we were looking for and the direction we want to go long-term."

In addition to being Van Leeuwen's second-in-command, 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.

Some specifics of her new contract still have to be ironed out, but it should be completed sometime in early April, Hellquist said.

Weller's goal is to attract more tenants that will base aircraft at Bemidji Regional, she said.

A new group, "The Friends of Bemidji Airport," is being formed from local businesses that already have ties to the facility, including vintage aircraft restoration company AirCorps Aviation, Weller said.

She said the group wants to attend Airport Authority Board meetings and provide input.