HELENA — This Year’s Helena Chamber of Commerce ”Boss of the Year” is Jeff Wadekamper, director of the Helena Regional Airport. Wadekamper was recognized for always going above and beyond for his employees and helping the organization find its way through some turbulent times during the pandemic.
“I’m really humbled to receive this,” Wadekamper said. “It really means a lot to me that staff feel strongly enough to nominate me for this.”
Wadekamper’s first job back in high school was with the Helena Regional Airport in 1991. He’s worked a number of positions at the airport before taking over as director in 2014.
“Boss of the Year” is the chamber’s most meaningful award according to Chamber President Cathy Burwell. Nominations come from employees of Helena organizations. The submissions are then scored by a panel of judges.
“We had some of the most outstanding nominations this year,” explained Burwell. “It was very tough for our judges to go through those and the scores were pretty close, but Jeff came out the winner and very deserving.”
The employees of the Helena Regional Airport said Wadekamper stands out for the passion of his job and the high level of admiration he has for his employees. They noted he always looks out for their well-being, including, but not limited to, covering plow shifts on the tarmac over the years so people could spend time with their families during the holidays and having people over if their holiday plans didn’t work out.
“We work hard but still have fun and I think you know the airport wouldn’t be what it is today certainly without the team that we have, without the employees, without the commissioners, without the tenants and stakeholders. They’re really the ones getting the work done and making the airport what it is,” said Wadekamper.
COVID has been difficult for airports across the nations, with many seeing a significant reduction in revenue. However, unlike many airports, the Helena Regional Airport didn’t lay off a single employee during the pandemic.
“My whole top goal was to keep everybody employed, keep the airport and the users safe, and folks working here safe and so we all kind of pulled together and found solutions to things when they came up and so far we’ve been able to come through it very well,” noted Wadekamper
He added the whole team worked hard to normalize, as much as possible, coming to work during the pandemic and hopefully ease some of the stress.
As for the best part of his job, Wadekamper says it's seeing his team succeed and excel in their work.
“I think the most rewarding part is seeing the success, the achievements in projects and big efforts. The fact that everybody, no matter how small their part, came together to achieve that. To see that is really what drives me forward.”