The Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Commission Monday extended the term of Interim Airport Manager Rick Adair with no ban on his being hired for the full-time post.
The commission voted 4-1 to appoint Adair as interim airport manager with no sunset date for the term at a rate of $33 an hour. Voting yes were Commissioners Rachel Reabe Nystrom, Beth Pfingsten, Kevin Goedker and Andy Larson. Voting no was Jeff Czeczok.
The vote followed a failed motion (a 2-2 tie) conducted last week that would have prohibited Adair from being considered for the job. Without an extension, Adair’s term would have expired June 1. Adair said last week he would not continue to serve if a motion ruled him out for the post.
After the vote Adair, who said he still hadn’t decided whether he would apply for the full-time job, said he wanted whatever was best for the airport. He said if the commission found a candidate with better qualifications he would be fine with that.
Before the vote, Chair Andy Larson, who was absent last week, said he had spoken with Adair and effective immediately Adair would no longer serve any role in the airport manager search committee process.
Goedker, a Brainerd City Council member, changed his position from a week ago. He said Tuesday that if the commission truly wants the best airport manager it would be a disservice to rule someone out for the job.
“To not consider somebody would not be in the best interest (of the commission),” Goedker said.
Pfingsten and Nystrom agreed.
Nystrom expressed confidence in the search committee and said the strong message she received from interested people was: “Let’s have the best qualified candidate we can,” she said.
Larson voted yes but said he was concerned because Adair had seen answers to a test that would be given to candidates. He also said it would be good to get fresh blood in the job and that a complete reset might have to be considered if Adair became a candidate.
Czeczok emphasized the importance of public perception and said the airport commission was found to have a conflict of interest last year by Brainerd City Attorney Tom Fitzpatrick when an airport commissioner (who has since resigned) owned a company that had oversight of the airport remodeling project.
He said that Adair, who had stepped down from his airport commission post to temporarily serve as airport manager, could be reappointed some day.
“This commission has thumbed its nose at public perception over the last year or so,” Czeczok said.
He also said a community member could be found to replace Adair since he was able to assume the position with little or no experience as an airport manager.
“We essentially are being held hostage,” he said of Adair’s conditions for continuing in his interim post.
Pfingsten said Patrick Krueger, an attorney hired by the airport commission, did not find that a conflict of interest existed with the situation with the commissioner who resigned last year.
“I’m not interested in a coronation of Rick Adair,” she said. “I’m interested in finding the best qualified candidate.”