By Kevin Bowden
Jo Ann Speer, airport manager at Everett-Stewart Regional Airport, has been recognized with the Airport Manager of the Year Excellence Award by the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission.
She received the prestigious award at the recent 27th Annual Tennessee Airports Conference in Nashville.
The award is presented annually to the top airport manager in the state.
Mrs. Speer attended the Nashville conference with her husband, Kerry Speer, Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire, Weakley County Mayor Houston Patrick and airport commissioners Jim Bondurant, Mike Holman, Wayne McCreight, Dr. Chris Gooch and Jimmy Westbrook.
At last year’s state conference, the local airport was presented the inaugural Red Carpet Award recognizing the airport’s community involvement. Also, the airport commission was named the Governing Body of the Year by the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission.
Mrs. Speer’s award recognizes her leadership, dedication, persistence and overall commitment to excellence, according to a news release.
She was up against 82 other airport managers from across the state, including airports in Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, Chat-tanooga, Tri-Cities and Jackson.
Mrs. Speer has served as the airport manager since July 2007 and has been directly involved in the airport’s transformation into a regional facility.
Mrs. Speer and the airport commission have overseen several major projects at the airport, including extending the airport runway, hosting the 2011 Airport Extravaganza, upgrading airport facilities and mapping out a progressive plan for the future, which includes the development of an agricultural complex and new hangars.
A new access road off Highway 22 East is under construction and a new airport sign is planned near the entrance to Airport Road.
One of the keys to the airport’s growth in recent years has been the partnership between Obion and Weakley counties.
Over the past six years, more than $9 million has been invested in the local airport, with a majority of the amount coming from state and federal aviation agencies. Locally, more than $1 million has been invested in funds from the two counties and the airport commission.
“I think it’s an honor to have someone in our county to get this award and it shows how committed Jo Ann is to the airport,” McGuire said.
“I believe Jo Ann exemplifies what a passion for her job and good old hard work can do. Congratulations on a well-deserved honor,” Bondurant said.
“Obviously, in the past five-plus years, Jo Ann has made quite an impression at the state level,” Dr. Gooch said. “Her level of competence and work ethic is always obvious. Over the past years I’ve received ‘off the cuff’ comments from various TDOT aeronautics employees about the high quality of the job she is doing. ‘Cream rises to the top’ and Jo Ann has proved this adage true. Her job description is quite an exhaustive list, including overseeing daily airport operations, grant writing, public relations, accounting and payroll, fuel acquisition and overseeing various projects, while at the same time being foresighted so as to anticipate problems and move proactively to be sure there will be funding available to keep the airport open and operational. She does all these tasks better than anyone I know. The two counties are lucky to have someone that so much enjoys her job.
“From my perspective she is doing an extraordinary job. She deserves at least twice the pay. I’d put her up against any airport manager, even a large metropolitan airport like Nashville or Memphis. Unfortunately, our economy won’t acquiesce,” he added.