Don Smithey, executive director of Des Moines International Airport, announced today that he will retire from the airport effective Feb. 14.

 

The former director at Omaha's Eppley Airfield, came out of retirement to take the job in Des Moines four years ago.

 

"I've accomplished the goals that I set forth and said I would do," Smithey said.

 

Smithey, 73, is largely credited with helping the airport land service from Southwest Airlines. Under his watch, airfares have become more competitive, and the airport has set record passenger numbers the last two years. He also oversaw a change in the airport's governing structure from an airport board under Des Moines City Council jurisdiction to a five-person airport authority.

 

His final task will be helping present information on a strategic plan prepared by consultant LeighFisher Inc. Smithey has said that the airport's current strategic plan, developed in 2007, is out of date. The new plan could lay out strategies for building a new terminal. Those plans will be shared at the Feb. 11 Airport Authority board meeting.

 

When Smithey retired from Omaha in 2009 and moved to West Des Moines, officials persuaded him to come out of retirement to help the Des Moines airport, which was struggling with high airfares and declining passenger numbers.

 

Now, Smithey says he needs to learn how to relax. Among his first order of business in retirement will be visiting his daughters in Santa Monica, Calif., and Houston, and maybe traveling to Europe with his wife.

 

"I have no regrets about anything I've done, and I'm very proud of the record that the airport's been able to maintain," he said. "It's not about me. It's about the great people who are on our board and also the tremendous staff I've had the opportunity to work with. So when I leave, it won't miss a beat."

 

Ed Hansell, chair of the Des Moines Airport Authority Board, said that Kevin Foley is Smithey's likely successor. Foley is currently the assistant executive director and general manager of the airport, and has worked for the airport for five-and-a-half years. Hansell expects that decision to be made at the authority's next meeting on Feb. 11.