Politics & Government

After hints of possible departure, MidAmerica announces retirement of longtime director

It’s official: Tim Cantwell is stepping down after 17 years at the helm at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport, and a nationwide search will be conducted to find his replacement.

Cantwell announced his intention to retire Wednesday through the airport’s marketing and public relations firm.

“We appreciate Tim’s dedication to MidAmerica Airport and his passion for growing the operations here over his many years as director,” St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern said.

The St. Clair County Public Building Commission, which oversees MidAmerica, also said Wednesday it is kicking off a far-reaching search for a new director. Cantwell is expected to stay on at the airport until April, if needed, according to a news release.

A job listing for the position was first posted on the airport’s website.

In a statement, MidAmerica touted several recent accomplishments at the airport under Cantwell’s leadership, including passenger growth in recent years, culminating in a record 46,000 passengers in July, new non-stop destinations on Allegiant Air, expanded cargo operations and a growing partnership with Boeing.

“During his tenure, MidAmerica Airport has become the sixth-busiest airport in Illinois, landed exceptional tenants such as Boeing and North Bay Produce, and fostered relationships with Asian partners that will one day bear fruit for our region, all while maintaining our exceptional partnership with Scott Air Force Base. We are well-positioned for the future and wish Tim all the best as he embarks on his next chapter,” Kern said in a statement.

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Allegiant Airlines is the only passenger carrier at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport. BND file photo

Passenger growth has been put at more than 475 percent over the past five years, partially due to flight options from Allegiant flights, the county said in a news release. In 2019, the airport is on track to serve more than 260,000 passengers.

Cantwell earned $151,926 in 2018 as the airport’s director.

Public Building Commissioner Jim Nations said Cantwell kept the airport going through the ups and downs of MidAmerica’s last 17 years. He said the director’s work to bring in Allegiant and his work with Scott Air Force Base have been instrumental to the airport’s recent success.

“He’s been through the ups and downs of the airport that were generally driven by the implications brought on after 9/11 and exceptionally high fuel costs,” he said. “But he stayed the course and slowly brought in airlines.”

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MidAmerica St. Louis Airport Director Tim Cantwell. News-Democrat

In 2018, airport leaders approved a $2.1 million design contract for renovations at MidAmerica and, more recently, announced a $96 million project to extend the MetroLink light-rail system from the Shiloh-Scott Air Force Base station to MidAmerica as part of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s six-year Rebuild Illinois Capital Plan.

Over the past several years, the airport also has focused on bringing in more cargo traffic, something Cantwell in the past has said would bolster MidAmerica’s financial position. The airport built a large warehouse to accommodate its cargo partners and has worked to open trade routes between MidAmerica and China.

Nations said the commission will be searching for someone with experience in many fields, but mainly in developing an airport like MidAmerica.

“We’re looking for someone who has experience in the development side of airports and has a grasp on what our particular market is and will be,” Nations said.

According to the job listing, resumes for the director position will be accepted until Dec. 2. A search committee will review candidates and hold phone interviews. A selection is expected by Feb. 1, and the new director would start March 2, according to the website.

The Public Building Commission is scheduled to meet Thursday.

BEHIND OUR REPORTING

Why we did this story

This story on MidAmerica St. Louis Airport is a part of the Belleville News-Democrat’s continued reporting on the airport and its impact on the metro-east. It is one of many articles that focus on developments at the airport, its offerings and more.

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Kavahn Mansouri covers government accountability for the Belleville News-Democrat, holding officials and institutions accountable and tracking how taxpayer money is spent.
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