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Bellingham airport director leaving for Sea-Tac

Passengers wait at the expanded boarding gates at Bellingham International Airport on May 1, 2013. Aiport Director Dan Zenk, who is leaving to take a job at Sea-Tac airport, oversaw the $38.5 million terminal expansion, among other major projects.
Passengers wait at the expanded boarding gates at Bellingham International Airport on May 1, 2013. Aiport Director Dan Zenk, who is leaving to take a job at Sea-Tac airport, oversaw the $38.5 million terminal expansion, among other major projects. The Bellingham Herald

The Port of Bellingham is searching for a new director of aviation for Bellingham International Airport.

Current director Dan Zenk is leaving to take a position as a senior manager in the aviation operations division at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. His last day is Friday, June 19, and, after a relaxing vacation in Costa Rica, he’ll start at Sea-Tac July 13.

For the next two or three months, airport manager Mark Leutwiler will serve as interim director while port staff conduct a nationwide search for a new director, said Rob Fix, port executive director.

An internal team from various port departments likely will interview the top candidates and help hire someone in mid-September, Fix said.

“We really appreciate everything Dan did. He oversaw one of the largest capital projects in the port’s history — he oversaw the repaving, growth and expansion of the terminal,” Fix said. “We wish him well in his new career.”

Zenk was hired in July 2006, to serve as airport manager, and was promoted to director in 2011.

“When I started here, we had just a small, 27,000-square-foot terminal with one security checkpoint line, and a boarding area that could only handle one flight at a time,” Zenk said. “Since then, we’ve expanded the commercial aircraft three times, expanded the terminal four times, and expanded the parking lot five times”

Zenk helped oversee the $30 million runway project, the $38.5 million terminal expansion, the building of a new airplane rescue and firefighting system, and most recently, the beginning of construction for a new hotel at the airport.

All the growth in a short period of time, including a 600 percent increase in passengers since 2004, came with a lot of challenges, Zenk said.

“It was a very busy time as the airport manager. Operationally, trying to coordinate day-to-day activities with (clients) through construction periods and the growth was a challenge,” Zenk said. “Then being promoted to director, a whole new set of challenges came about, including more involvement with the community, with elected officials, as well as being the sponsor of these major capital projects.”

Now that the large projects are complete, whoever takes over will need to tackle the airport’s declining number of passengers and work to develop the air service, he said.

“Over the last year, we’ve seen a decline in enplaned passengers and a decline in the capacity of seats being offered in Bellingham,” Zenk said. “The airport’s in a great position: it’s a very low-cost airport, so that’s attractive to airlines, and there is some untapped demand from the market that should be an easy sell not only to a new airline, but also with Allegiant and Alaska increasing their capacity to the markets they serve.”

Reach Samantha Wohlfeil at 360-715-2274 or samantha.wohlfeil@bellinghamherald.com. Read the Politics Blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog and follow her on Twitter at @BhamPolitics.

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