Dennis Rouleau, longtime manager of Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling and Prospect Heights, will take a medical leave until the end of the year.
When questioned about rumors he was leaving the airport, Rouleau revealed he will receive a bone marrow stem cell transplant due to a condition called polycythemia vera that produces too many red blood cells and has damaged his bone marrow. The treatment and condition are similar to that of Robin Roberts, anchor of ABC's Good Morning America.
Rouleau, who is 52, said he is not prepared to say whether he will return to the airport after his period of recovery. He would say only that he is negotiating with the airport's governing board.
"Whatever we work out will be amicable," he said.
Rouleau came to the airport 24 years ago to head up operations and maintenance. He has held the head job for almost 12 years. His current salary is $148,000.
While David Kolssak, acting chairman of the airport's board, said Rouleau will have a job if he wants after his health issues are resolved, he said it won't necessarily be as manager.
"The ball is in Dennis' court," Kolssak said of whether Rouleau returns. "We want him to concentrate on his health and not worry about the job."
Jamie L. Abbott, assistant airport manager, will be acting manager, Kolssak said.
The airport is owned by Wheeling and Prospect Heights, and the governing bodies of the two municipalities appoint the airport board members and approve important actions such as the budget and hiring a manager.
Both Wheeling Village President Dean Argiris and Prospect Heights Mayor Nick Helmer praised Rouleau and his work. The partnership between the two municipalities has not always been amicable. Currently, the airport board has no chairman because the two governments have not agreed on one. Prospect Heights also has said for years that Wheeling owes it a share of sales tax from businesses at the airport.
Rouleau said tens of millions of dollars in business, construction and grants have come into the airport during his tenure. He also said he is very grateful to have found a volunteer transplant donor through Be the Match, bethematch.org.