XNA sets second round of CEO interviews for Thursday

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 422 views 

Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport (XNA) has scheduled a second round of interviews for the top three candidates seeking to fill the CEO and executive director position of the Highfill airport.

Before the interviews Thursday (Sept. 27), the board of directors for the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Authority will spend time with the candidates at several Northwest Arkansas restaurants. Separately, the candidates also will spend time with executives of the Northwest Arkansas Council and other local business leaders, said Scott Van Laningham, CEO and executive director for XNA.

On Aug. 30, the airport board narrowed down the number of candidates from six to three after spending the day interviewing the candidates in executive session. Follow are the top three candidates: XNA Airport Director Kelly Johnson; Aaron Burkes, president of the Arkansas Development Finance Authority; and Steve Hennigan, assistant general manager of operations for Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) of the Houston Airport System.

The board also will meet in executive session to interview the top three candidates Thursday. Following the interviews, the board might select the next CEO and executive director, Van Laningham said. After the meetings with the executives earlier in the week, they will provide feedback on the candidates to Van Laningham, who will then report it to the board members in executive session.

On Monday (Sept. 24), Johnson will meet with some board members for breakfast at Ella’s Table at Carnall Hall, for lunch at Crabby’s in Rogers and dinner at 28 Springs in Siloam Springs. Johnson also will meet with board members for a separate dinner at the Springdale County Club because some of the board members will not be able to meet with Johnson on Monday, Van Laningham said.

On Tuesday (Sept. 25), Burkes will meet with board members for breakfast at Ella’s, lunch at Crabby’s and dinner at 28 Springs. On Wednesday (Sept. 26), Hennigan will meet with board members for breakfast at Ella’s, lunch at Crabby’s and dinner at 28 Springs.

Earlier this year, executive search consultant Russell Reynolds Associates narrowed down a pool of more than 100 people who were considered for the position. About 70 people applied for the position, including the six candidates who were 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. His annual salary is $200,524.

Also on Friday, U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton, along with U.S. Representative Steve Womack, announced XNA will receive $2.7 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to rehabilitate a taxiway in need of repair. The grant will go toward reconstructing 1,300 feet of Taxiway B pavement which has reached the end of its life. This improvement will result in more efficient transit times and savings on fuel costs.

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