Airport to start search for new director

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Airport commissioners continued their discussion of finding a new airport manager. — Jenna Lambert

Airport commissioners voted unanimously at Thursday’s meeting to hire ADK, an executive search firm, to locate qualified applicants to fill Ann Richart’s current position as airport director.

Three search firms sent proposals to the commission for consideration.

Richart recently announced she is departing from the airport in order to be closer to her elderly mother on the West Coast.

Commissioners balanced the idea of doing all the advertising and searching internally, versus utilizing an outside search firm to zero in on serious possibilities.

Commission chairman Bob Rosenbaum said if there were to be an internal applicant (someone already involved with the airport), the process of conducting background checks and interviews could be bypassed. He also said it could be possible for an executive search firm to do the “first half” of the process (searching for candidates and contacting them), then the airport could conduct reference checks, interviews, and background checks.

Rosenbaum advocated for hiring a firm to do the brunt of the work. “This is something that is going to be a lot of work, and I don’t think we want to get into it,” Rosenbaum said. “We would be being penny-wise and pound-foolish to go that route.”

Commissioner Trip Barnes asked about the two other applicants not chosen for the position when Richart was hired.

Rosenbaum said both those applicants are unavailable and no longer options.

Aside from the search and hiring process being a lot of work, Rosenbaum also noted the fact that large executive search firms are usually very connected and know a lot about the industry.

“It’s not just going and putting ads in the paper,” Rosenbaum said. “All these firms have a network of people, they are in the industry, they know who is available and who isn’t.”

Secretary Kristin Zern noted that ADK consulting, an executive search firm that the airport initially used to find Richart, is a viable option because they know the Vineyard well.

“It seems to me that the team leader for ADK, Rod Dinger, is a super-duper plus. He knows the Vineyard, he knows what our constraints are, what our positives and negatives are,” she said. “Besides the fact that it’s less expensive than other proposals, I think it seems like a hands-down thing.”

Commissioner Richard Michelson asked whether the airport would have to establish a salary range for the position.

Rosenbaum said there could be a broad salary range anywhere from $110,000 to $150,000 starting salary. “I don’t think we can go in and say the salary is based on experience level, this is going to have to have some numbers attached to it,” Rosenbaum said.

Commissioner Don Ogilvie suggested doing the process in two steps. “Step one would be deciding to do a search, instead of doing it all ourselves. Then the second step would be to decide who would be the best candidate out of all the options,” Ogilvie said.

Rosenbaum said he believes all three search firms that submitted proposals are capable, but ADK has history with the airport.

“Being chair of the search committee years ago, I found them very good to work with,” he said.

Ogilvie moved to hire ADK, approve their proposal, and start as soon as possible.

“Their price is the best price, they are very knowledgeable, and they have worked with us before,” Ogilvie said.

Commissioners also discussed the job description for the airport director position, and what that may entail.

Rosenbaum suggested putting out a more “compact” job description while candidates are being located, then formulate a more comprehensive description once some options are narrowed down.

Richart said ADK is a fine firm and a good option for this job search.

With that, ADK was selected as the desired executive search firm, with an estimated cost of $32,210 for a complete search.