Gene Conrad

The head of Lakeland’s airport has turned down an opportunity to move to a similar job in Naples. “I’m honored that I was selected as their No. 1 candidate,” Gene Conrad said. “But as we weighed all the great opportunities that we have here in Lakeland, we decided that staying here was really the best option.”

Conrad, who was hired as director of Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in 2010, had been ranked first among 65 candidates to succeed Naples Airport Authority Executive Director Ted Soliday, who is retiring next spring after 22 years.

The Naples airport authority board today asked its headhunter consultant to review the candidate pool for more finalists, the Fort Myers News-Press reported.

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Conrad, 40, said he’s not actively looking for a new job, but the Naples position interested him because his father-in-law lives there and he’s visited often during the last 10 years.

“But the heartstrings started pulling. The kids are in great schools. This was really the best decision,” he said.

His boss, Interim City Manager Tony Delgado, agreed, saying, “We’re thrilled that Gene has decided to stay. He’s done a lot in a short time. We hope he’s a part of the team for a long time to come.”

The Naples Airport is preparing its terminal for flights with Elite Airlines, the first commercial service since Delta discontinued flights there in 2007, the Naples Daily News reported.

The retiring airport director was criticized by Naples city commissioners earlier this month for approving the Elite contract without first alerting airport authority board members.

Soliday, 69, announced last June that he would retire this coming April.

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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  1. Good news for Naples, difficult news for Lakeland. With all that is happening over in Tampa, someone needs to wake up and drive more business towards Linder Airport. Its very quiet over there.

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