Two themes keep coming up in conversation with Ben Leischner, the new executive director of the Quad-City International Airport — community and family.
In his third week on the job, Leischner, 36, is clearly positive about his new job and the community.
“I’ve actually been very impressed both with the airport, airport staff, our tenants,” said Leischner. “But also the community. That’s one of the reasons that really drew me to the Quad-Cities is the sense of community.”
Leischner spoke up several times during two committee meetings Wednesday afternoon, indicating he was definitely going to be offering his perspective on things as soon as he fully understood whatever any issue entailed.
Leischner joked that he set the bar low when he considered taking a job in the Midwest after coming from Seattle, where he was airport operations manager and airlines scheduling manager at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
“When I came out here, finding kind of a river community, where there’s a lot of things for families,” he was impressed, he indicated. “Even though it’s the Midwest, there’s still kind of a diversity within the community of things to do, things to see.”
And in this job, the soon-to-be father of three will have a lot more time be involved.
He’s going from a two-hour one-way commute to work to one of possibly just five minutes from Milan, where he hopes to close on a home soon.
“I am coming from a two-hour commute in Seattle where in my best case, my days were 12 hours between commute and work,” he said. “Here I will be able to go to my (two) daughters’ schools or go home for lunch. Unless I get stuck (behind) a tractor, I am only five minutes away.
“That’s exciting to me.”
Involvement in the community is key to Leischner, who originally is from a small farming community on the Oregon coast. He’s at a point in his life where he believes he has a calling to serve.
“I want to get involved in the community,” he said. “Here I think it’s very much the right size for both me as well as my family, having two young daughters and a pregnant wife.
“Getting involved again, there’s a lot of family things to do. Baseball, softball are big.”
Of course, there will be a job to do. He values his time with Bruce Carter, the outgoing aviation director, citing how connected Carter is in the community. Carter will retire at the end of the month.
But there’s no denying Leischner’s new home base is going to be different from Seattle, including the airport. Airlines negotiations will be much different here. “It’s going to be a different role for me,” he said. “In Seattle, it was almost fighting airlines off where we weren’t trying to go out and bring better service to our community.”
He does hope to add more business and leisure destinations to travelers from the Quad-City International Airport, though. And Leischner believes he definitely has something to offer the airlines here.
His new home airport has “good bones,” he said, “with the type of terminal facility and airfield that we have.”
It’s all very good, he said for an area this size. “Here the foundation is set with really great, talented staff but also a terminal facility that it’s fantastic for this size of a community,” Leischner said.
He even likes the weather so far. It’s not really as hot as when he arrived on Memorial Day. Nor does it have near the rain of Seattle.
But for Leischner, the equation is all about fit.
“It was really… it wasn’t too big; it wasn’t too small,” he said. “It’s kind of that whole — it feels right.”