Minnesota Lt. Governor Tina Smith said she couldn’t help but think of former Rep. David Dill as she stood inside the Falls International Airport terminal Tuesday.
Dill, who died in August, was a pilot and a champion for the local airport, said Smith, who was there to urge area officials and members of the community to voice support to all legislators to provide $3 million in bonding money toward a renovation of the terminal building.
Smith said she knows the area’s current state lawmakers, Sen. Tom Bakk and Rep. Rob Ecklund support the project and they wanted to be there Tuesday, but instead were meeting with the governor.
On a northern tour of the state, Smith stopped with Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans in International Falls to also walk downtown and visit with small businesses, including The Hideaway.
The Falls International Airport is one of nine key airports in the state and one of four with international designation, Smith noted. It has offered commercial service for 60 years.
Her reasons for supporting the airport project, Smith said, are threefold: it is important to the economy and jobs in the northern tier of the state; to maintain public safety and support the mission of U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and to maintain the significant air traffic received because it is an international port of entry.
She credited Falls Mayor Bob Anderson, who has served 30 years as chairman of the local airport commission, with helping to keep the project moving forward.
“Your advocacy has a lot of oomph,” she told Anderson.
Frans said the bonding bill and state budget go hand in hand.
“This stood out as a critical need,” he said of the project. “We want you to join us in making sure the bonding bill fits the size of the need.”
Discussing the bonding bill and budget, as well as a budget surplus, Frans said, “We have to make clear this is one of the projects that has to get done this year. We can afford to do it now.”
Anderson introduced Smith and included comments about the need for the renovation. Koochiching County Commissioners Wade Pavleck and Brian McBride also spoke during the brief talk, thanking Smith and Gov. Mark Dayton for including the project in their bonding bill and for keeping Borderland in their hearts and minds. While chatting prior to making comments, Smith noted her husband and sons have attended Camp Kooch-i-ching.
Airport Manager Thor Einarson also spoke of the project’s anticipated benefits and acknowledged the support of Smith, Dayton and Frans.
“Thank you for not forgetting us out here on the periphery,” said Einarson.
Also speaking to Smith and Frans was Falls School District Superintendent Kevin Grover, who said a strong airport helps support a its community and its education system.
Plus, he smiled, he wanted to bend their ear about preschool funding, as suggested by Ecklund, who now represents the district Dill once did.