The Metropolitan Airport Authority of Rock Island County Board (MAA) has unanimously agreed to a five-year contract extension with current executive director Benjamin Leischner.
He joined the airport in May 2018 after serving as airport operations manager/airline scheduling manager at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. His base salary for running the Quad Cities airport is $250,000 a year.
“There was no question among the board that Ben is the right fit to lead the airport into its next phase and position it well for the future,” MAA Chairman Kurt Donnelly said in a Thursday release. “We’ve seen tremendous output from Ben and his staff over the past 5 years and we are confident in his vision. We continue to be energized by his leadership and are excited to continue working with him.”
Since joining the organization, Leischner has led several key initiatives including restructuring the organization, navigating COVID as an essential service and laying the groundwork for a $40-60 million terminal transformation project at Quad Cities International Airport, Moline.
Under Leischner’s leadership, the organization did not enact any furloughs during the pandemic and thanks to an expanding portfolio remained fiscally solvent despite the aviation industry experiencing the worst recession in its history, the airport release said.
“The Quad Cities International Airport has an incredibly bright future ahead and it is my honor to lead this organization and the amazing people that make it a great place to work,” said Leischner. “We are full steam ahead on our plans to modernize the airport while making it a friendly, welcoming and important resource for the region. The airport is an economic engine and it is one of my goals over the next 5 years to increase its impact and value for our community.”
The airport has not raised taxes in six years and it is consistently one of the lowest line items for residents in the taxing district, which does not include all of Rock Island County, airport spokeswoman Ashleigh Davis said Thursday.
“We are in the minority of organizations in Illinois with taxing authority that we are not fully leveraging – meaning, we have the ability to increase taxes, but Ben has stated he is not in support of doing that,” she said.
“Our airport serves a bi-state region, however we only collect property taxes from a portion of Rock Island County while the majority of our passengers reside outside of our taxing district,” Leischner wrote on the airport website in May 2022.
“In fact, over half of our passengers come from across the river as Iowa residents. We are committed to keeping the airport authority one of the lowest, if not the lowest, line item on applicable county residents’ taxes,” he wrote. “Currently, the Metropolitan Airport Authority’s (QC Airport) tax levy is about 1% of residents’ overall property tax assessment.”
Leischner previously worked for the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for seven years, holding positions of increased levels of responsibility. He has previous experience with the Port of Bellingham, Bellingham International Airport, and DY Consultants.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in aviation management and flight operations from Florida Institute of Technology and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Nebraska. Leischner is an Accredited Airport Executive from the American Association of Airport Executives and is a commercial instrument pilot.