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EXTENDED STAY: Airport Director Retires, Again

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The job was supposed to be temporary from the beginning.

But Tuesday, the man credited with bringing Southwest Airlines to Des Moines announced he plans to retire.

Don Smithey already retired once when he was director of the Omaha airport. He was lured out of retirement to run Des Moines International.

At first, he was told it would be a six-month stint as executive director while city leaders found somebody to do the job permanently.

But they changed course, establishing the Airport Authority Board.

It changed the way the airport does business, cutting costs and four years later; it’s the change in which Smithey takes the most pride.

“I think that’s the biggest step we’ve made in the time I’ve been here,” Smithey said. “It’s made all the difference in the world and of course, second to that was getting Southwest Airlines here.  That was a big step for us, as well.”

Smithey says he and his wife look forward to having time to finally use the airline tickets he received as a gift the first time he retired from Omaha.

The search is underway for his replacement.