Two vacant positions have been filled on the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority at a critical time for the airport and its governing board.
Former airport finance manager Nikki Thorn was appointed this week by the Porter County Commission to take the place of Robert Poparad, who resigned in November to devote his time to his new post as Porter County councilman.
Last week, the Lake County Commission appointed Peoples Bank CEO David Bochnowski to the seat vacated when Lake County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen recently stepped down from the airport authority.
"Clearly the airport board is headed in the right direction," Bochnowski said. "It's a matter now of putting all the pieces together. If I can help with that, that's what I'll do."
The appointments come as the airport authority is attempting to round up the final pieces of financing for its $166 million expansion project, which is well under way and faces a deadline of the end of this year for completion.
It also comes just after legislation was introduced in the Indiana General Assembly to regionalize the airport authority by expanding it from its current seven members to 11. The city of Gary would keep its four appointments to the authority and Lake County and Porter County would maintain their individual appointments. The governor of Indiana would appoint the other five.
Porter County Commissioner John Evans, a former airport authority member, said Thorn was appointed because of her expertise in finance and knowledge of airport operations. Thorn, a Portage resident, resigned her job as finance manager at the airport in September.
Evans also spoke up on behalf of regionalizing the airport authority when the Porter County Commission appointed Thorn, commenting that the mayor of Gary holds to much sway over airport operations.
"It's totally wrong," he said. "The state needs to change it. When you have a seven-member board and four are appointed by the mayor of Gary, how can you call that a regional airport?"