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Article updated: 2/12/2013 11:07 AM

Former DuPage Airport board chairman reflects on tenure

By Robert Sanchez

The DuPage Airport was facing serious problems a decade ago when Dan Goodwin took the helm of the board overseeing the authority.

The airport in West Chicago was $23 million in debt and operating at a loss. DuPage County Board members had even accused the authority of running a "scam" on the taxpayers and were calling on the airport to stop collecting property taxes.

Goodwin and the rest of the authority board decided to run the airport like a business. Now the authority is debt-free, making a profit and working to reduce its reliance on property tax dollars.

For Goodwin, it's the right time to step down from the airport board.

"I have been able to accomplish the goals that we set out for ourselves in 2003," said Goodwin, who resigned from the panel on Jan. 31.

"It's time now for a change in control," he said. "Let some new people come into the organization. Let some new people with new ideas take charge."

Stephen Davis has been picked to head the authority board, which has slashed the airport's levy from about $18 million in property taxes in 2003 to $5.9 million.

Meanwhile, county Chairman Dan Cronin on Tuesday is going to honor Goodwin during the county board meeting.

"The airport authority, in many ways, has become a model for how to do things right," Cronin said.

"In the old days, we used to read about problems and scandals at the airport authority," he said. "Now all I hear about are the awards they have been gathering."

Goodwin, who is chairman and CEO of Oak Brook-based Inland Real Estate Group, was appointed to the airport board in October 2002 by former county board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom. Four months later, Goodwin became the panel's chairman.

The 68-year-old Oak Brook resident says Schillerstrom helped him remove political influence over the airport.

"When you eliminate politics from an agency and you have completely impartial bidding, you can reduce expenses," Goodwin said. "And when you're free to hire whoever you want, which we have been, the results speak for themselves."

Goodwin, for example, said the airport's transformation was aided by the hiring of David Bird as executive director. "David Bird is a wonderful executive director," Goodwin said. "He really understands aviation."

Authority officials say they have been able to reduce the levy by generating other sources of revenue, cutting costs and eliminating debt.

So while the airport had "virtually no cash" in 2003, Goodwin said, it now has an estimated $20 million in cash reserves.

Last year, the owner of a $250,000 house paid about $13 in property taxes to the authority. All the property tax money the authority collects is set aside to help pay for improvements to the airport, including a planned $9 million widening of the primary runway.

Goodwin said it likely will take years for the airport to be removed from the tax rolls because the federal government isn't funding airport maintenance projects as much as it did before the recession.

Still, the goal of reducing the airport levy remains viable, Goodwin said. "It should continue to go down," he said.

In the meantime, Goodwin said he has left the authority board in good hands with Davis at the helm.

"I think he's an excellent choice," Goodwin said. "He's a businessman who will carry on the tradition of running the airport like a business."

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