Board members for the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) spent Thursday (Aug. 30) in executive session interviewing six candidates for the position of executive director and CEO of the Highfill-based airport.
The board of directors of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Authority narrowed down the candidates to three, two of whom have Arkansas ties: XNA Airport Director Kelly Johnson and Aaron Burkes, president of the Arkansas Development Finance Authority. Steve Hennigan, assistant general manager of operations for Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) of the Houston Airport System, also made the cut.
After his interview, Tom Nolan, executive director for the Palm Springs International Airport, withdrew, saying the position wouldn’t be a good fit for him, said Scott Van Laningham, CEO and executive director for XNA. Other candidates who didn’t make the cut were Bradley ‘Brad’ Livingston, who recently retired as the airport director for Dane County Regional Airport; and Kelly Fredericks, former CEO of Ontario International Airport Authority.
A second round of interviews for those who made the cut is expected to be at the end of September. The candidates will be taken around the area to visit community stakeholders, such as the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission, and airport staff, followed by an interview in executive session with airport board members.
The six candidates were narrowed down by executive search consultant Russell Reynolds Associates from a pool of more than 100 people who were considered for the position. About 70 people applied for the position, including the six candidates interviewed by the board.
On Dec.13, the XNA board approved spending up to $200,000 to hire Russell Reynolds to help find the airport’s next CEO and complete a structural review of airport administrative staff. In 2017, Van Laningham announced his plans to retire. On Jan. 1, Van Laningham’s salary increased by 7.5% to $200,524. The airport board approved the pay raise after an executive session at the Dec. 13 meeting.