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Airport users dig deep to save manager’s job

A Minnesota airport manager whose job faces elimination in a budget-cutting effort is finding that the aviation community he serves is willing to dig deep to keep him working.

Glenn Burke, the manager of South St. Paul Airport, has held the job since 1994. During a recent budget session, the South St. Paul City Council included his position among several municipal jobs to be cut or scaled back. Burke’s duties would be redistributed among other city agencies.

Local pilots were shocked at the news, and quickly sought a meeting with the elected officials.

They offered to raise $42,000 to fund Burke’s salary for 2011. The largest airport tenant, float manufacturer Wipaire Inc. CEO Bob Wiplinger sweetened the offer, proposing to match other tenants’ contributions. Burke also received strong support from the Fleming Field Aviation Association and other airport users, according to AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Mike Schoen.

AOPA is urging city officials, who have yet to decide on a course of action, to reinstate the airport manager’s position and accept the proposition put before them by airport users. Doing so would give the city time to find alternative cost-cutting solutions, while keeping a “full-time professional airport manager whose sole focus is the airport” employed.

“Airports are economic engines for their communities. Without an aviation focused airport management structure in place, the community will suffer,” said John Collins, AOPA manager of airports policy, in a Nov. 23 letter to South St. Paul Mayor Beth Baumann.

The Fleming Field community’s response has generated local news coverage that not only expressed the strong support for Burke, but also reflected members’ concerns that the absence of a full-time airport manager would make the airport less attractive for future business expansion.

Approximately 223 general aviation aircraft are based at Fleming Field, which was named after World War II Navy pilot Richard Fleming, a posthumous recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy, Aviation Industry

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