Columbia airport takes off with new manager

Andrew Schneider was previously airport manager in North Dakota.

With major renovations and improvements in the works, the Columbia Regional Airport will begin these changes with a new manager, Andrew Schneider.

Schneider will replace interim airport manager Don Elliott, who took over when manager Kathy Frerking resigned after four years in August.

After Frerking left, the airport opened the position to applicants, and 73 people applied. This week, the Columbia Public Works Department chose Schneider, who was previously an airport manager in Jamestown, N.D.

"He was the best fit from the two candidates that were brought in for interviews,” Columbia Public Works spokeswoman Jill Stedem said.

She said the city manager, public works director, the human resources department and the assistant public works director were all in charge of sorting through applications and deciding whom the final two would be.

The advisory board then got to sit down with the two candidates to get to know them.

"Well, I had a really good first impression,” advisory board Chairman Gregory Cecil said. “He was very engaging. He has experience in the areas we have an interest in, he's worked with Delta (Airlines), he has a desire to be an airport manager. It's very promising."

Schneider said he had been looking to move up in his career and had found the Columbia position listed on an aviation jobs website.

"When Columbia came up, I did a little bit of looking,” Schneider said. “I had to ask myself, one, ‘Am I eligible for the job?’ and two, ‘Is it somewhere I want to live?’ I put my name in with 73 others, and thankfully, it came out on top."

Schneider’s job will consist of multiple duties, from working with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration to the everyday happenings at the airport.

"He will oversee the daily operations of the airport, work with the leasees, Delta Airlines and the FAA," Stedem said. "He will oversee the expansion and improvements to the airport facility, continue working to improve our commercial air service, and hopefully, terminal improvements.”

Stedem said Schneider is coming in at a good time. The airport recently had its master plan for improvements approved locally. It is now at the FAA for approval.

“Hopefully they'll approve it,” Cecil said. “That project is funded with federal funds.”

Schneider said beyond the master plan, he has ideas for the airport.

"An airline ticket is a product,” he said. “You just have to get the combination of taking people where they want to go at the price they want to do it.”

He said the airport is planning to conduct a terminal study to determine what improvements need to made to the terminal.

“Just to see what we have and what we need to expand," he said. "We'll get consultants and stuff involved.”

Cecil said the airport holds a good deal of economic opportunity. He said he’d like to see some amenities go into the terminal, too, such as meeting rooms and possibly a coffee shop.

One factor Schneider plans to focus on is customer loyalty.

"In the history of Columbia's air service, there've been a couple of different carriers,” he said. "I am very optimistic that as the implements increase, that will attract another carrier at least. There's really no reason to have people drive to Kansas City or St. Louis."

Cecil said the airport is excited to have Schneider and his experience.

"How long we'll be able to keep him, we don't know that, but hopefully a lot of good things will happen while he's here,” he said.

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