GREEN  In the 36 years President and Chief Executive Officer Rick McQueen has worked at the Akron-Canton Airport, a lot has changed.

McQueen, who has announced his retirement at the end of the year, grew up in North Canton. He graduated from Hoover High School before attending Walsh University, where he obtained an accounting degree.

He began working at an accounting firm before a better opportunity would come his way.

Airport career

McQueen would begin his career at the airport in 1982 as airport accountant. He would then be promoted to controller, then assistant director of finance Administration and then assistant airport director.

"I was surprised that someone had to run the airport," McQueen said.

McQueen had talked with Fred Krum, the president at the time, after Krum announced he was retiring in 2008. The airport's Board of Trustees then unanimously agreed to promote McQueen to become the next president.

While the airport has faced some struggles through the years, McQueen said the changes and improvements have been positive and he said he was fortunate to work with such great people to make things happen. He said all the consolidations in the air industry changed the way the airport and other airports across the country operate.

The airline industry grows through consolidations, that is the way it has always been, McQueen said. He said the early 2000s were difficult times as fuel prices skyrocketed, which had a major effect on airliners bottom line.

"We had to adopt to the way things happened," McQueen said. "Every business goes through that."

McQueen doesn’t want to take credit for the improvements and success of the airport, though.

"Nothing has happened here because of me," McQueen said. "I couldn’t have done it without a team."

The airport is nearing the completion of 10 years of construction projects totaling $118 million. Some of the improvements include the runway extension, terminal building upgrades, improved entrance road and the addition of covered short term parking.

"We made a lot of transitions over 10 years," McQueen said.

McQueen said there is nothing at the airport that is the same from when he started. One of the biggest changes is technology, adding that when he started computers were not user friendly. He also said a lot changed after Sept. 11, 2011, in regards to security. People used to be able to go out to the gate to send someone off, which is no longer the case.

McQueen said also the airport used to be more of Akron-Canton asset, but now it is more of a Northeastern Ohio asset.

This year, the airport hopes to begin the gate replacement project as some of the gates opened in 1962. McQueen said the gates are not designed for modern day aircrafts. The $3.5 million project is expected to begin in late summer or early fall and take about two years to complete, depending on the weather.

While McQueen’s time at the airport will come to a close at the end of the year, he said he isn’t done working just yet.

"I am not retired yet," McQueen said. "There is a lot to accomplish and we have to continue to run the airport smoothly."

Akron-Canton Airport Board of Trustee Chair Robert Konstand speaks very highly of McQueen.

"Mr. McQueen has left an indelible mark on the history of the Akron-Canton Airport. His leadership has been a key asset in the growth and development of CAK," Konstand said. "Through his strong strategic planning and thoughtful maximization of construction funding, he and his team have done a terrific job of positioning the airport to take advantage of future opportunities that will come our way. We are grateful for his tenure at the airport and his work to solidify CAK as an integral part of the regional community."

Replacing McQueen

The board of trustees will take the lead in finding a replacement for McQueen and he said he will be a part of finding his replacement. McQueen said he is confident the trustees will get the right fit for the community.

In the new leader, McQueen said, it needs to be someone with airport experience and understands how an airport works along with someone who can work well with local community leaders and knows Summit and Stark counties. The goal is to have someone in place by the end of summer or early fall so they can have a few months to work alongside McQueen.

"This transition needs to be smooth," McQueen said. "I will still be around and only a phone call away."

Retirement plans

McQueen plans to stay involved in the community following retirement as he serves on several boards. He said he is also looking for volunteer opportunities he can be involved in.

McQueen also looks forward to spending more time with his wife, Karen, their two sons and their families.

"I just want to take a step back and see what opportunities present themselves," McQueen said. "I will see if another door opens. If it does, I may just have to walk through it."