Fort Smith Regional Airport Director search underway, interim likely to be named prior to hiring

by Aric Mitchell ([email protected]) 486 views 

Fort Smith Regional Airport Director John Parker will retire on March 31 after 20 years with the facility and close to 10 as director. It’s not likely a new director will be immediately ready to take the job.

He was promoted in May 2008 from the interim director position. Prior to that, he served as the facility’s director of operations. He also served in the military as a helicopter pilot and is a veteran of the Persian Gulf War.

His departure leaves a vacancy the Airport Commission will likely fill with an interim director, Parker said, noting the job search is progressing, but not quickly enough for a day one replacement. Beyond that, Parker told Talk Business & Politics on Thursday (March 23), he was “out of the loop” for what comes next, including who that interim replacement might be.

What he does know is outside consulting firm ADK Executive Search is handling the search and the job application period has expired. Atlantic Beach, Fla.-based ADK specializes “exclusively in searches for the airport management community,” according to its website.

ADK will score applicants and make finalist recommendations to the Fort Smith Regional Airport Commission. Commission chairperson Dr. James Kelly is the point of contact for the job search, Parker said, but Kelly was unavailable on Thursday to discuss a timeline for filling the vacancy.

Salary range for the position is $90,000 to $120,000 with an “attractive benefit package, including relocation assistance and three weeks paid vacation,” according to the ADK job advertisement.

Parker announced his retirement at a Nov. 22 meeting of the Airport Commission and told Talk Business & Politics afterward he planned to stay in the Fort Smith area, “at least at first,” citing family in Alaska as possibly fitting into future plans.

Parker succeeded Kent Penney, who served as Airport Director from August 2004 to December 2007. Penney replaced Robert Johnson, who held the position from August 1988 to November 2003. Parker would have the longest tenure of the last 50 years if not for Jim Groves, who filled the slot from December 1966 as acting director. He was made official on May 2, 1967 and served through the end of December 1988. The city clerk’s office and airport administration did not have director information readily available prior to Groves, though there were other directors going back into the airport’s 81-year history.

The Airport Commission, established in 1977, is a Fort Smith Board of Directors-appointed body that sets policy and provides guidance to the Airport Director, who manages daily operations of the airport. Originally, the Commission was a 5-member body; however, it was expanded to a 7-member body in 1997. Commission members serve 5-year terms.

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