Rochester International Airport Executive Director Marty Lenss announced today that he resigned to take an airport director job in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Lenss started as executive director at RST in May 2013, according to a news release from the Rochester Airport Co., which is a subsidiary of Mayo Clinic.
Lenss said he wasn't looking for a new job, but a headhunter contacted him with the opportunity at the Eastern Iowa Airport and he couldn't pass it up.
"Cedar Rapids is a much bigger airport, they’ve got a lot going on. It's just a bigger opportunity and a bigger challenge," Lenss said.
Eastern Iowa Airport had more than 1 million total passengers come through in 2013, according to its passenger statistics.
The airport company will start a search for a new director right away, according to the release. Lenss said his start date in Cedar Rapids is Jan. 19.
Lenss took over as director after longtime director Steve Leqve announced his retirement in 2013 from the position he held for almost 42 years. When Lenss was selected, Leqve told the Post-Bulletin he was the top candidate among more than 30 people vying for the job.
Before coming to Rochester, Lenss, a Minneapolis native, was the director of the Greenville, Wis., Outgamie County Airport from 2008 until 2013.
"We absolutely have loved Rochester and the community has really embraced not just me, but my family," Lenss said.
Lenss said he's loved working at the airport and praised the efforts the community and airport have made together in the past year and a half. He's not leaving because of any dissatisfaction with the job here, just a larger budget and more responsibility in Cedar Rapids, he said.
"We have been able to do some great things. I think the airport has got a great future ahead of it," Lenss said.
During Lenss' time at the airport, direct flights to Atlanta and Detroit were brought online. Lenss also looked into some ideas to provide TSA screenings at the Rochester Airport and safe transport for those flying out of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as a way to save time.
Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede, who chairs the city's airport commission, said the resignation was "very much a surprise."
"It's disappointing that he would be leaving us because he’s been outstanding," Brede said.
The airport director is employed by Mayo Clinic through the airport company.
"It is unique, that he’s a Mayo employee. ... The city owns the airport, Mayo Clinic runs it. We’ve got to look at that. I don't know if that's a problem, but it is a confusion to folks," Brede said.
Brede said he thinks the commission may need to look at the way that all works.
"We wish him well, but there’s some things there that we have to look at and say what were some of the reasons? ... I don't think it was just about money. There may be some other things that we have to take a good look at," he said.
Rochester City Council President Randy Staver said Lenss had some great ideas, like saving money by not building a new terminal and instead revamping the existing one.
"I was a little surprised, especially given that Marty has done an outstanding job while he has been in our community. ... He's brought a lot of new ideas to the table," Staver said.
Staver also sits on the airport commission. He said the search for a new director will be mostly done by the airport company and Mayo Clinic, but that the mayor would likely be involved.
"We wish Marty and his family well in the new endeavor, and we will miss him because he’s had a positive influence on the airport," Staver said.