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Ramona Finnila, a Carlsbad resident and chairwoman of the McClellan-Palomar Airport’s advisory committee, is expected to join the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority’s board. She would replace outgoing authority member Robert Maxwell of Oceanside.

Finnila said she has received confirmation from Carlsbad Mayor Bud Lewis that the five coastal mayors agreed to appoint her. But incoming Encinitas Mayor Jim Bond must first check with his city council, she said. “To me, that would be the final (approval,)” she said.

Finnila isn’t so sure that she’ll be on the authority for very long. She said she expects changes to its governing structure because of the legislation being drafted by State Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego.

Finnila indicated that she was opposed to the authority’s recent site-selection process, which culminated in the Nov. 7 defeat of a ballot proposition that envisioned moving the region’s international airport to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

“If the military didn’t need [Miramar,] it would’ve been wonderful,” she said. “But of course, they need it.”

Finnila did not indicate which side of the current airport debate – which centers on proposed Lindbergh Field improvements – she falls on. Former state Sen. Steve Peace, who drafted legislation creating the authority in 2001, says the airport’s current expansion plans need to be overhauled. Proponents say the authority’s proposed $600 million master plan will accommodate future growth at the 661-acre airport.

So what does Finnila think is next for the authority and Lindbergh Field?

“The decision as to whether or not Lindbergh grows or expands at various rates is not a decision that will necessarily be made in San Diego,” she said. “It will be made by the legacy airlines, those that have been in existence a long time. … You have the airline industry that will be dictating to the various airports what they want. That doesn’t mean that San Diego will be able to say and get what they want. What San Diego must do is remain as flexible as possible.

Finnila has been involved with Carlsbad’s McClellan-Palomar Airport advisory committee for 20 years. During the Miramar debate, Richard Carson, a University of California, San Diego economics professor, suggested a small runway extension at Palomar would help accommodate the region’s future passenger growth.

But, Finnila said, “it’s not as simple as he makes out,” because of the millions that have been invested in new projects – a new terminal and other new buildings – at the general aviation airport.

Finnila, a 30-year Carlsbad resident, is a Minnesota native. She is a former Carlsbad City Council member, serving from 1992 to 2004. The grandmother said she is semi-retired and runs a small consulting business.

ROB DAVIS

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