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Wayne Andersen, former director of the Lincoln Airport and the Nebraska Department of Aeronautics, died this month in Florida. He was 86.

Andersen was director of the Lincoln Airport from 1983 until his retirement in 1996. Before that, he served as director of the state Department of Aeronautics for four years.

Andersen's tenure as airport director was one of the most successful in Lincoln's history. During his time in charge, passenger numbers nearly doubled, from 277,000 in 1983 to 533,000 in 1995 — a number that still stands as the second-highest total in airport history. He also oversaw more than $55 million in improvements to the airport and its industrial park.

Andersen's biggest accomplishment may have been ending the Airport Authority's practice of levying a local property tax in 1986. Though the board retains the legal authority to levy a property tax, it has not done so in three decades.

Jim Lauerman, who served on the Airport Authority during most of Andersen's tenure, said that though the board unanimously voted to stop levying property taxes, it was Andersen's idea.

"Wayne saw (the airport) as a business that he and we needed to run almost like a private enterprise," Lauerman said.

He said Andersen was able to maximize the airport's revenues by re-evaluating leases in the industrial park and using his government connections to ensure the airport was maxing out its appropriations from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Andersen, who was a former Marine Corps aviator, also served as state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

He was born in Lynch and grew up in Naper. After retiring from the Marines, Andersen moved back to Naper and then later lived in Seward. He had lived in Florida since his retirement.

He is survived by his wife, Neita, four children and six grandchildren. A memorial service was held Monday in Sarasota, Florida.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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