Russell Reynolds, XNA staff review CEO candidates

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 186 views 

Scott Van Laningham, left, CEO and executive director for Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA), speaks to board member Art Morris before touring the parking deck under construction at the airport. XNA hired Russell Reynolds Associates to find Van Laningham’s replacement.

Succession planning continues at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) as Scott Van Laningham, CEO and executive director for the Highfill-based airport, looks to retire later this year.

XNA hired executive consultant Russell Reynolds Associates to find Van Laningham’s replacement and to review the airport’s administrative structure. The first phase of the consultant’s work is to find a new CEO, and recently, members of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Authority were updated on the consultant’s progress.

“There have been a series of conference calls with the search firm,” Van Laningham said. “They are moving forward with all deliberate speed. They have started identifying potential candidates. We have reviewed those, some of them in some detail, based on resumes, qualifications, that kind of stuff.”

The candidates they’ve brought to staff for review work at airports, but Van Laningham said it would be good to have candidates who have backgrounds in other sectors such as economic development.

The plan is for the consultant to continue to gather a pool of potential candidates into May, and afterward, staff are expected to narrow down the candidates and develop a list, Van Laningham said. The list would be public, but he’s yet to determine when it would be available.

When board member Stan Green asked whether any candidates have declined to be a candidate because the list would be public, Van Laningham said none have, but the consultant told him candidates could decline after being informed that their name would be on a public list.

“That’s the nature of a public search,” Van Laningham said. “One of the nice things that the search firm brings is a Rolodex and a list of contacts in various sectors that they can reach out to.”

Van Laningham has encouraged XNA board members to submit potential candidates for the position. Airport Director Kelly Johnson previously said she’s interested in the position.

XNA board members would narrow down the list after interviewing candidates. The interviews can be completed in executive session, and Van Laningham said multiple rounds of interviews likely would be required before a candidate is selected. The first round of interviews might start in June with between six and eight candidates. The final round of interviews might include three or four candidates before a selection is made.

Van Laningham expected the board’s personnel committee would complete the interviews and return to the full board with its recommendation before selecting one. Van Laningham said he hopes a replacement will be selected in July. The consultant also will review the airport’s administrative hierarchy, which might include positions such as a chief financial officer and chief business development officer.

On Dec. 13, the XNA board approved spending up to $200,000 to hire Russell Reynolds. The structural review would comprise of $75,000 of the contract, while the remaining $125,000 would go toward the CEO search.

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