Interim managers step up
FAIRMONT – Tuesday was the first day on the job for Fairmont Municipal Airport’s interim managers.
Four men stepped forward to fill the gap left by the termination of the city’s contract with Five Lakes Aviation. Comprising the team is lead manager Mark Craven, Verlus Burkhart, Dennis Thate and Homer Scott.
Craven, a farmer, has a wide scope of experience in aviation, as a flight instructor, corporate pilot for Dr. Corey Welchlin, and private pilot. Together with Scott, Craven even built an airplane.
Scott, also a farmer in the Dunnell area, has a similar resume. He is the only one of the four who does not live in Fairmont. Scott got his pilot’s license in 1975. He offers flight instruction and flies professionally for Welchlin and Kahler Automation, and as a hobby. In the past, he was a pilot with United Express.
Burkhart got his pilot’s license in 1968 and has been flying private planes ever since. He currently owns a Cessna 150 and TriPacer.
Thate, too, has been flying since 1968. He has his own plane and private strip.
“I’m here to help the airport get something new established for future growth,” he said.
The team’s management role at the facility is part-time and temporary, until a new city employee can be hired as airport manager. As temporary part-time employees, the interim managers can only work for the city for 57 days.
From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, the four interim workers will take turns making sure operations are running smoothly. Their responsibilities range from figuring out what office supplies and tools are needed, to refueling and moving airplanes, to making sure all airport equipment is in proper working order and the runways are clear.
“We’re gonna do the best we can to keep this airport running and make it a place people want to stop,” Burkhart said.
The city is now in charge of groundskeeping, hangar leases and rent, and contracts for aviation fuel.
In the past, all of these duties were the responsibility of Five Lakes Aviation. By hiring a city employee to manage the airport, Fairmont City Council hopes to have better control of the facility.
“I think it’s going to be a better airport,” Thate said.
“Just making the general appearance look better is going to be nice,” Burkhart added.
He and his colleagues are hopeful the new management model the city is adopting – nixing a contracted manager in favor of a city-employed manager – will work, but time will tell. If the arrangement doesn’t work, city leaders have noted it is not set in stone.
“It’s up in the air how the pieces will fit together,” Scott said.
The posting for the new job ended Monday, and there were 37 applications submitted, according to city administrator Mike Humpal counted
“It’s better than I thought we would get,” Humpal said. “I worked on identifying this new management style through Owatonna and South St. Paul, and both thought there would be plenty of applicants. That’s from all over the country and local.”
The interim managers are not eligible to apply for the position.