Missoula County Airport Director Chris Jensen is leaving his post in April to return to the airport where he started his career and to close it out in his hometown of Reno, Nevada.

KGVO spoke with Jensen on Wednesday morning and he shared the whole story.

“It is true after almost 16 years here, I'm going to go back home,” began Jensen. “I don't know if people are aware but I'm originally from Nevada, born and raised. My first airport where I started my career was actually Reno, and so this has been one of those gut wrenching decisions. I would say we absolutely love Montana and ultimately, we'll be back in Montana. This is an opportunity for me to finish my career in the airport I started at, and it has the benefit of helping my retirement. I have 15 years actually in the State of Nevada's Retirement System and I get to work with a lot of friends that I have at that airport and I still have family in Reno and in the state of Nevada.”

Jensen looked back at the tumultuous time when he assumed the leadership at the airport.

“When I first started here, I'm sure you recall the prior director had been charged with four felonies,” he said. “There was obviously a lot of press surrounding what was going on. I think there was even some discussion of disbanding the airport authority. The inspector general was here in the offices digging through files, and there had been staff members that had been implicated in the wrongdoing. What I should point out was that it was all ultimately proven not to be the case.”

Jensen related how he and his staff started rebuilding the trust of the public in the airport’s leadership.

“The trauma kind of abated with time as we were able to kind of check the boxes and all the various challenges that we had and, and then it was really a matter of reaching out to the public and trying to make sure that we are transparent in the way we did things so that they could see that we had their best interests at heart,” he said. “This is their airport, not mine, and it was making sure that they could be comfortable with the direction we were going, and that they could clearly see that we were doing things in their best interest.”

Jensen said the new director will be his long time deputy Brian Ellestad.

“You know, he certainly earned the right,” he said. “He's done an amazing job and is just as solid and calm and reassuring; all of those things that I've needed, but it's his turn, he's earned it and he'll do a great job. I know the board wants to go through a process and he'll compete but I have all the confidence in the world that he that he would be a great next airport director.”

Jensen has overseen a massive $ 60 million building project at the Missoula County Airport, and said the project is about 70 percent complete. He had nothing but praise for the contractors, architects and designers of the new terminal building.

Jensen’s last day will be April 9.


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