Columbia's Airport Advisory Board resumes meetings after 2016 disbanding

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COLUMBIA - Columbia's Airport Advisory Board met for the first time on Wednesday since disbanding back in September.

According to the city of Columbia website, the board disbanded on Sept. 19 in order to transition from being under the watch of the department of public works to the department of economic development.

Board member BJ Hunter, who was on the board before it disbanded, didn't see the change as something that would slow the board down.

"Economic development was still involved with the airport before. It technically sat under public works, but economic development weighed in," Hunter said. "I don't think it'll be that much of a change. It's all owned by the city of Columbia." 

In addition to changing departments, the board now has new members with areas of expertise different than the last board.

"It's going to be interesting to see just how they weigh in for their respective communities whether it's hotels, restaurants, or the chamber of commerce," Hunter said. "[It will be interesting] to see what those industries are looking for as far as service from the airport." 

The biggest order of the meeting was electing a chair and vice chair for the board. 

The board elected Brian Whorley as chair. Whorley then appointed Matt Jenne as his vice chair. Both Whorley and Jenne were on the board before it disbanded.

Whorley works for the Boone Hospital Center and said he sees this position as more than just a spot on the board.

"This is an opportunity to serve my community, a community I care about in a meaningful way," Whorley said.

According to Whorley, the Columbia Regional Airport could be used as a go-to airport for more mid-Missourians.

"Whenever folks are making travel arrangements, in not all cases, but in many cases it makes sense to fly out of Columbia versus St. Louis or Kansas City," Whorley said.

Other ideas discussed including studying possible ways to improve security, adding air service/routs, and bringing in presenters from Springfield.

On Monday, Economic Development Director Stacey Button said she is not actively looking for a new permanent airport manager.

Former Columbia Regional Airport Operations Supervisor Mike Parks took over the position on an interim basis after Tamara Pitts resigned back in November. 

"Mike Parks has a long history at the airport, he's pretty much seen and done every job out there, so he's extremely familiar with everything that goes on there," Hunter said. "I think it's a wise decision to let Mike just take the spot."

City of Columbia Community Relations Director Steven Sapp said Parks is being evaluated for the position.

The next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 22.