Mike Wilson has been spending a lot of time at the Aberdeen Regional Airport.
So much, in fact, that co-worker Rhea Ketterling likes to joke that he lives there.
"That's what she thinks," Wilson said as Ketterling rattled off a brief analysis of the hours Aberdeen's new transportation director has spent at the office.
When she arrives in the morning, Wilson's already beat her to work. And when she leaves, he's still there.
Wilson, 30, began the job about two and a half weeks ago. Since then, he's spent many hours reading and catching up on anything dealing with the airport and Rideline — his two main responsibilities.
At the airport, he'd like to continue increasing passengers. Since jet service was added to one of Aberdeen's daily flights late last year, passenger numbers are up 11 percent through December, he said. Wilson said he'd like to see all three of Aberdeen's flights go to jet service.
At Rideline, where rides were up 2.5 percent in 2010 compared to 2009, Wilson said he's looking forward to learning more about the operation.
"(The goal) is to just continue on course with everything," said Wilson, who replaced the retired Dave Osborn.
While he's new to Rideline, the city's busing service, Wilson is at home at the airport. He came to Aberdeen from Brookings, where he served as the airport manager for the city since 2007.
"I wouldn't be happy not working at an airport," said Wilson, a Carlton, Minn., native, who moved to Aberdeen with his
wife, Sarah. "It brings a lot of variety."
It's also an area where Wilson has a lot of experience.
After graduating high school, he had originally planned to became a commercial airline pilot.
But after two years at the University of Minnesota Crookston, he was activated into the Air National Guard. He spent a year serving his country before returning to school at St. Cloud State University and getting a Bachelor of Science degree in aviation management.
While he does have his private pilot's license, he decided not to pursue a commercial pilot's license.
"After 9-11, airline jobs were harder to come by," said Wilson, who also serves as president of the South Dakota Airport Manager's Association.
Coming to Aberdeen was a natural fit, he said. The people he worked with in Brookings — state people, engineering firms, Transportation Security Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, etc. — are the same ones he'll work with in Aberdeen.
"Brookings had an airline when I started there in 2007," Wilson said. "Then they lost it. I don't know if they'll ever get it back, and I wanted the airline."
Plus, he enjoys the hunting, fishing and outdoor opportunities Aberdeen and the area can offer, he said. Wilson also plays a lot of basketball in his free time.
And then there's work.
Wilson said Aberdeen is in an area of the state where air service is needed.
"I would much prefer to fly out of somewhere that has an airport close," he said.
Wilson has also spent a bit of time looking into some of the smaller things Aberdeen can do to appeal to passengers. For example, there is no soda machine for passengers to use once they go through security. He plans to change that, giving passengers an opportunity to take drinks onto the plane.
"I think it's little things like that people enjoy," Wilson said. "I just want to make it the best airport we can get."