Belinda Ortiz Kirkegard has been appointed to an opening on the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ office announced late Friday.
Ortiz Kirkegard, of Kissimmee, is the economic development director of the city of Kissimmee.
She completes a seven-member board that controls both the state’s largest commercial airport, Orlando International Airport, and the high-traffic general aviation airport near downtown Orlando, Orlando Executive Airport.
Registered as a Republican voter, she joins a board that has often found itself in political tugs of war between Republican gubernatorial appointees and Democrats led by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, whose positions on the board are assured by the authority’s state charter.
Ortiz Kirkegard is a longtime, well-known player in Central Florida economic matters.
Before assuming the role as Kissimmee’s chief development officer in 2009, she had worked for the Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association and the Orange County’s Business Development Office.
In 2019 Orlando Business Journal named her the newspaper’s 2019 Women Who Mean Business Executive of the Year.
She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando, and the AdventHealth Central Florida Division.
She joins the GOAA board in busy times.
Pre-pandemic, Orlando International Airport topped 50 million passengers in 2019, making it the 10th busiest airport in the United States. The airport passed Miami International Airport in passengers in 2017. Of course, the pandemic crashed air traffic, starting with a 96% drop in April 2020. Much of that traffic has been restored, but not international traffic, and it could be years before the airport serves 50 million passengers again.
Construction of a new terminal building, which would shift international air traffic from the crowded main terminal, will be completed soon.
In a couple of years, the airport also should be the first in Florida to add intercity train service, as Brightline is slated to begin service between South Florida and a terminal at Orlando International.