Managing an airport during a complete work over is a challenge, and for the Kenai Municipal Airport's assistant manager it also proved to be a kind of test to see if she could step into the full-time job of running one of the area's busiest airports.
"An airport changeover is not an easy task. Mary did an excellent job," City Manager Rick Koch, said of Mary Bondurant, who has been promoted to replace Becky Cronkhite as airport manager.
The Kenai airport is undergoing a major $10.7 million reconstruction project adding length to the north end of its main runway to essentially move the south end out of a mandated Federal Aviation Administration safe zone; rebuilding the parallel taxiway, which is being used as the runway while the main runway is being resurfaced; and enlarging the floatplane basin to accommodate larger charter aircraft.
"She is really dedicated; she has a 'can-do' attitude," Koch said. "I wanted to wait and have Mary show me what she is capable of," he said, before promoting Bondurant.
Cronkhite left in May to take a position with the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities statewide aviation operation in Anchorage.
The construction project is on schedule, according to Bondurant, and about 80 percent complete.
"The floatplane basin has been lengthened to 4,653 feet and is now being made (100 feet) wider; the taxiway is done and we're now landing on it," Koch said. Resurfacing of the runway will be completed before the end of this year, he said.
"Mary has been with the city for nine years," Koch said. She was hired as the airport administrative assistant.
"Many times she performed as the acting airport manager," he said.
Before coming to Kenai, Bondurant was in Kodiak for eight years assisting the airport superintendent there and having responsibility for Kodiak's state highways.
"Kodiak's airport operates in a similar way to Kenai," Koch said, adding that Kodiak also has jet service.
Koch said the job of the airport manager in Kenai is too large to be part of a person's job. It must have a full-time manager.
On the other hand, it is not as large an operation as Anchorage's Ted Stevens International Airport, where management is departmentalized among several people.
"Mary has a (commercial driver's license) and she jumps on a loader to move snow," Koch said.
As airport manager, Bondurant directly supervises two city employees, but during snow removal and maintenance jobs, she is able to call on the city's Public Works Department staff.
She also is responsible for managing contracts with the custodial workers at the airport and electricians, and she interacts with airline personnel, car rental agents, the Kenai Cafe restaurant, FAA air-traffic controllers and Transportation Safety Administration inspectors.
As a 139 Federally Certified Airport, Kenai must remain in compliance with FAA rules and regulations, Bondurant said.
She also must insure that leaseholders of city land at the airport remain in compliance with terms of their leases; she is in charge of operations in the terminal; and she oversees airport security.
"I am really looking forward to the challenge and ensuring this is the strongest (facility) for air transportation in the area," she said.
The city currently is contemplating whether to lengthen commercial leases of airport property from 35 years to 50, and Bondurant said she will conduct the airport commission meetings, and "will work with the city in resolving the issue."
Phil Hermanek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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