December 1, 2019
As I reflect on my visits to International Falls, one constant comes to mind; a warm welcome, a smile, a hug, from Mayor and Airport Commission Chair Bob Anderson. Sadly, a visit to I-Falls will no longer begin with that smile from Bob, as he passed unexpectedly on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. Bob was a true statesman with over 50 years of public service to his community, the state and the nation, in a variety of roles representing his many interests and his deep love of the place he called home.
The list of Bob’s public service memberships is long and impressive; he was elected twice as mayor and alternately as city council member for the City of International Falls; he held directorships at Rainy Lake Medical Center, Highway 53 All the Way Task Force, Minnesota Forest Industry Council, Rainy River Community College Foundation and TruStar Federal Credit Union. Bob’s leadership positions as past president of League of Minnesota Cities, Exalted Ruler of Elks and Chair of the State Senate-appointed Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council have provided benefits for all Minnesotans.
As chairman of the Airport Commission for more than 40 years Bob has championed over 100 projects at the airport, bringing state and federal dollars to community improvements. It has been my privilege as Aeronautics Director to work with Bob on more recent projects at the INL Airport that have changed the front door to the community.
Plans began in 2015 for Airline Terminal Building Expansion followed by two phases of Runway Reconstruction. The terminal expansion allowed for facilities to include Customs and Border Patrol, Transportation Security Administration, National Weather Service and an office for the Airport Commission and the Koochiching Economic Development Authority to share. The project was one of the first in the state to utilize Minnesota General Obligation Bond funds as a match for FAA dollars to deliver the project. The four-year project came in just under $16 million dollars. Reinvesting in solid runway pavement is next on the list. Bob was well aware of a new FAA grant offered to INL Airport just this September for another $16 million as phase two of a four-year runway reconstruction plan.
The Local Airline Service Action Committee (LASAC) was organized in 1964 with Bob Anderson among the founding members. The purpose of this small but influential organization is to promote airline service to small and medium size communities in Minnesota. The group has provided congressional testimony for the continuation of the Essential Air Service Program, encouraged marketing plans for member airports, provided united support in negotiations with airlines to retain flight schedules and services in the remote areas of our state and represented important business needs of those communities to national leaders.
Without Bob’s efforts, International Falls would not be welcoming visitors from around the world through their airport front door. It has been an honor and privilege to know and work with Bob. I’m sure everyone who has had that opportunity will say the same. Rest in peace Bob, thank you for all you have done.