Airport Authority picks Cossey as next executive director

Hank Hayes • Jan 7, 2019 at 7:00 PM

KINGSPORT – The Tri-Cities Airport Authority on Monday picked Gene Cossey, executive director of the University of Illinois – Willard Airport, Champaign, Illinois, to be its next executive director.

“Gene does bring us the total package,” Airport Authority Commissioner Bill Sorah, city manager of Bristol, Tennessee, said of Cossey.

Airport Authority Chairman Jon Smith was expected to negotiate a compensation package — which included base pay of $150,000 per year — with Cossey.

If no agreement could be reached, Airport Authority commissioners said they would reconvene the search committee with a new slate of candidates.

“This individual has got to have a complete understanding of how to manage and operate an airport this size,” Smith observed.

In addition to Cossey, Airport Authority commissioners interviewed Rick Feltner, airport director, Minot International Airport, Minot, North Dakota; and Shaun Germolus, executive director, Chisholm-Hibbing Airport Authority, Hibbing, Minnesota, at the MeadowView Marriott.

Their questions focused on whether the candidates could enhance air service and the airport’s finances; market Aerospace Park, the airport’s aviation-related economic development project; support general aviation; and address passenger leakage to other airports.

Cossey’s bio

Cossey has been in his current position since December 2015. He has worked aviation operations management since he was 19 years old and has held positions at five airports spanning more than 30 years. Prior to coming to Willard Airport, he was the director of operations at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the director of Airside Operations at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. He has spent the majority of his career on the Oregon coast. He holds a master’s of public administration degree from the University of Illinois, Springfield and bachelor's degree from Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, majoring in business management and information systems design. He is currently a doctoral student in the University of Illinois Public Administration program. He is an accredited airport executive with the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and is an international airport professional with the Airport Council International (ACI).

Interim Executive Director David Jones was not among the finalists for the job. Smith declined to say whether Jones applied for the position. “He’s comfortable with this process,” Smith said of Jones.

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