The Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport Board of Directors moved Thursday to hire a new director to replace Bob Whitmer, who is set to retire in December.

The board selected Robert Barnett, current manager of Bowling Green-Warren County Regional Airport. Barnett will begin on Nov. 26, and will have a week of training with Whitmer.

Board Chair Ed Riney said the board’s search committee received 44 applications that were eventually whittled down to the four finalists.

“Many of the candidates had good experience, but Rob understood this region and we looked at the success he had with the industrial park at the Bowling Green airport,” Riney said.

Riney said the most important factors the board considered in the applicants were their experience and their views on economic development.

“We looked at that more than simply having air service experience,” Riney said. “We were looking to improve the airport’s ability to be sustainable and expand economic development.”

The next airport director will be tasked with maintaining and improving the quality of air service at the airport, and will also be responsible for coordinating with the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation to attract prospective industries to the MidAmerica Airpark. The airport also has about 250 acres of land prime for development.

“It really jumped out at me,” Barnett said. “I’m familiar with the community and I’ve worked with (Whitmer) on several projects. I see a lot of potential there at the airport and I’m really looking forward to working with the community leaders.”

Barnett has led several capital projects at the Warren County airport and attracted its first commercial airline since 1979. Before going to work there, Barnett was an expeditionary aircraft recovery specialist with the U.S. Marine Corp.

Much like the Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport, the Bowling Green-Warren County Regional airport is jointly owned by a city and county and has two runways.

In 2017, Barnett, Whitmer and Richard Roof, of Paducah’s Barkley Regional, formed the Western Kentucky Air Service Partnership to help promote the three regional airports.

The board assigned a search committee to guide the process in August and the position was advertised nationally.

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Published on November 16, 2018