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JRA Authority hires airport manager

by JRA Authority hires airport manager

Posted on 9/18/2014

The Jamestown Regional Airport Authority hired a new airport manager Wednesday, while praising Matthew Leitner, current airport manager, for his four years of service.

Samuel Seafeldt, a flight instructor at the University of North Dakota, is the new airport manager and will start after the first week of October. He lives in Grand Forks with his wife and children. Seafeldt has a Bachelor of Science in aeronautics. He has a commercial pilot license and is a certified flight instructor with 11 years of flying experience.

The authority approved the hiring of Seafeldt, and his salary will be $50,000 a year to start. The authority also accepted Leitner's resignation.

Leitner and Jim Boyd, authority chairman, announced Sept. 2 at a Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. Executive Committee meeting that Leitner was resigning effective Sept. 19 and was taking a new position managing three airports in Crescent City, Calif.

Leitner's last day at Jamestown Regional Airport is Friday. The authority is holding a public reception at 2 p.m. Friday in the authority's meeting room so people may come and say goodbye to Leitner.

Boyd said the authority posted the airport manager's position on the American Association of Airport Executives' website for a 15-day period earlier this month. After reviewing the resumes of interested candidates, Boyd said the authority's human resources committee, which consists of Boyd, Vice Chairman Jeff Wilhelm and member Brent Harris, interviewed six applicants by phone last week. The committee invited three of the six for in-person interviews, which were held Monday and Tuesday.

Boyd said he chose Seafeldt because of his background as a pilot.

"He's overall very professional, very personable and a family man," he said. "He was born in Seattle, but has been living in Grand Forks for a while. I like that he loves living in North Dakota, and he wants to stay here."

Wilhelm said the human resources committee was lucky that any of the six candidates interviewed by phone were more than qualified to be the next airport manager.

"I think he (Seafeldt) will carry on the tradition that Matthew has established," he said.

Leitner leaving

Leitner said he will start his new job managing one commercial airport and two general aviation airports for the city of Crescent City, Calif, on Oct. 2.

Leitner said he wasn't looking for a new job, but the opportunity to manage the airports in Crescent City was a good one.

"With the new place I'm looking forward to running two general aviation airports," he said. "I came up through general aviation airports. It will be fun having that kind of diversity (mix of commercial and general aviation airport)."

Leitner was hired in November 2010, and it was the second time he had applied for the job.

"I'd like to thank everyone (on the authority) for taking a second chance on me," he said during the authority's meeting on Wednesday. He had first applied for the Jamestown Regional Airport manager position in 2008.

Boyd said Leitner faced many challenges when he was hired. The airport had just started its new terminal project. Then in 2011 Delta Airlines, which had been providing commercial passenger service to JRA, announced it was getting rid of its smaller propeller aircraft and wouldn't be renewing its federal Essential Air Service contract to Jamestown.

"We only had one bidder for the contract (in 2012) and that was Great Lakes Airlines," Boyd said.

With Leitner's help, Boyd and the authority were able to secure a bid from SkyWest Airlines to provide commercial passenger air service, a bid that was accepted by the U.S. Department of Transportation in February 2014. After Great Lakes Airlines stopped its passenger service to Jamestown on Jan. 30, SkyWest, through a contract with United Express, began providing commercial passenger service to Denver International Airport in June.

Boyd said beyond Leitner's skill at running the airport and providing service to its customers, Leitner was very good at finding external sources of income from the federal and state governments and bringing those funds to JRA.

"Matthew was instrumental in re-establishing our relationship with the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission as well," he said.

Leitner said he is most proud of all that he, the authority and the Jamestown community have accomplished over the last four years. In addition to overseeing the construction of the new terminal building and the new EAS contract with SkyWest/United Express, Leitner said the airport has new runway lights, new electronic access gates, a new rotating beacon and is having new T-hangars built that will help improve the airport's general aviation standing.

He said he didn't do it alone and is very grateful to the community for everything that has happened with the Jamestown Regional Airport.

"I want to thank everybody and am proud of what we all accomplished collectively during my time here," he said. "I will miss working with the people of Jamestown."

Sun reporter Chris Olson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at colson@jamestownsun.com