by Dave Weiman
Midwest Flyer – Aug/Sept 2016
MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL, MINN. – The executive director of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), Jeff Hamiel, bid his friends, staff and business associates a fond farewell at a retirement galla held May 25, 2016 at the Golden Valley Country Club, Golden Valley, Minn. Hamiel retired effective May 16, 2016 after 39 years of service. The commission confirmed Minnesota native, Brian Ryks, 52, Hamiel’s successor on March 21.
“Through nearly 40 years of service to the Metropolitan Airports Commission, Jeff Hamiel has made an indelible impact on air travel in Minnesota and has provided a strong voice for airports nationally,” said MAC Chairman Dan Boivin, who emceed Hamiel’s retirement party.
“Under his leadership Minneapolis-St. Paul International has earned a reputation as one of the nation’s best managed airports. The number of passengers served annually has more than quadrupled during Jeff’s tenure. He has provided a steady hand to keep air service strong in Minnesota not only in good times, but also when airlines one after another were filing for bankruptcy, merging and discontinuing hub operations at other airports.” Boivin thanked Hamiel for helping him realize the role and importance of reliever airports. Among the other speakers included Delta Airlines CEO Richard Anderson, who praised Hamiel for his professionalism and cooperation over the years.
The executive director and CEO of MAC oversees day-to-day operations of one of the nation’s largest airport systems, including Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP) and six general aviation airports in the Twin Cities metropolitan area: Airlake (in Lakeville), Anoka County-Blaine, Crystal, Flying Cloud (in Eden Prairie), Lake Elmo and St. Paul Downtown.
A U.S. Air Force pilot, Hamiel joined the Metropolitan Airports Commission on May 16, 1977 as its first noise program manager. Hamiel quickly rose through the ranks, becoming assistant operations director in 1980 and director of operations in 1983. Hamiel served as deputy executive director in 1984 before becoming MAC’s executive director and CEO in 1985. At the same time, Hamiel continued to serve in the U.S. Air Force Reserve as its chief pilot and commander of the 96th Airlift Squadron until he retired from military duty in 1998.
More than 35 million people traveled through MSP in 2014 compared to 8.4 million passengers in 1977, when Hamiel joined MAC. The number of flights also has increased from 263,709 in 1977 to 412,695 in 2014. MSP is the 16th busiest airport in the United States in terms of passenger traffic and the 13th busiest for aircraft operations. A 2012 economic impact study, conducted by InterVISTAS Consulting LLC, estimates that MSP International Airport generates more than $10 billion in annual economic activity for the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area and supports more than 76,000 area jobs.
Hamiel’s successor, Brian Ryks, was born in Lakeville, Minnesota, and received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice Studies at St. Cloud State University in 1990. He first worked at MAC as a noise and operations technician, and went on to become a noise abatement manager at Stapleton and Denver International Airports in Denver, Colo. (1990-95). He became airport manager at Aberdeen Regional Airport in Aberdeen, S.D (1995-97); and St. Cloud Regional Airport, St. Cloud, Minn. (1997-2002). In 2002, Ryks was named executive director of the Duluth Airport Authority, Duluth, Minn. (2002-12); then executive director and chief executive officer at Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Mich. (2012 to present). Like Hamiel, Ryks is a general aviation pilot (www.metroairports.org).