Cyril Cooper’s job description has undergone a dramatic change.
The City of Red Deer’s land and economic development officer has become interim manager of the Red Deer Regional Airport. He replaced Liam O’Connell, who resigned effective May 1.
Bev Hughes, vice-chairman of the Red Deer Regional Airport Authority board, said the authority had to act quickly to replace O’Connell. Transport Canada requires that airports managed by airport authorities, as is the case with the Red Deer Regional Airport, have an operations manager or CEO.
The City of Red Deer, which oversees the airport authority in partnership with Red Deer County and the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, suggested that Cooper — who has sat on the Airport Authority board for seven years — fill the void on a temporary basis.
“It was a bit of a no-brainer,” said Hughes.
“He knows what the authority has been doing, he knows the airport.”
The airport manager is responsible for ensuring the safe operation of the facilities, said Hughes. He also oversees four employees, who in turn are involved with administration, promotions, maintenance and other functions.
O’Connell had served as manager for nearly two years. A pilot, he was previously on the Airport Authority board for eight years, including a stint as chairman.
Hughes said O’Connell resigned his position to pursue opportunities in the energy sector.
O’Connell is a mechanical engineer and had previously worked as a project engineer with an oilsands venture company.
Current initiatives at the airport, including maintaining and expanding passenger air service there, shouldn’t be adversely affected by the change, said Hughes.
Cooper said he will continue to seek new carriers, as well as tend to operational duties and pursue funding for improvements and expansion at the airport.
He said he will also work to attract new business and investment to the airport. In this regard, an area structure plan for the land there is currently being developed that would provide a blueprint for commercial and industrial development, said Cooper.
Hughes said Cooper’s economic development background should prove valuable when it comes to such business development.
“It’s a real good fit.”
Advertising for and hiring a new airport manager will take some time, said Hughes. He estimated that Cooper should be able to return to his old job in less than six months.
In the meantime, his responsibilities with the City of Red Deer will be looked after by Michelle Zeggil, a land and economic development specialist with the city.