By John Jarvis
MARION — “When you think of Marion Municipal Airport, you have to think of Dan Stover,” Mayor Scott Schertzer said, commenting on the death Monday of the facility’s aviation director of more than 22 years.
Stover joined the airport in November 1990, succeeding Robert Ault, who had retired.
“We lost a good one, that’s for sure,” said Audrey Wagner, the airport’s operations director, who worked with Stover his entire career at the airport. “We’re in shock.”
Schertzer, Wagner and others praised Stover for his work in securing grants to maintain and upgrade the physical plant of the 1,000-acre airport, just east of the city at 1530 Pole Lane Road.
“He was very, very intelligent,” Wagner said. “He did a lot of good for the airport. Almost every year we were able to … (make) all these improvements with grants from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). He had a very good relationship with them.”
Brian Clark, chairman for the airport commission of which he’s been a member for 18 years, spoke of Stover’s role in improving the airport.
“Dan led the airport through a number of beneficial expansions and really made the airport an asset to the city for attracting businesses, and I think we’re all proud of the work that he did out there,” Clark said. “He managed to lead the airport through good times and, here lately, tough times. I think he did a job we’re all proud of.”
The airport and Stover’s effectiveness as aviation director had gone greatly unnoticed by the general public, Al Goerlich, airport commission secretary, said.
“There’s a lot more traffic than people realize,” said Goerlich, an airport commission member of 10 years. “You have to have somebody who has the capabilities to work with the FAA. A lot of times it’s the first place of contact for new businesses coming into town, so it’s kind of like a good point of contact.”
He said Stover’s work with helping the city develop the airport industrial park, as a place to foster business growth, and efforts to help Marion CAN DO! attract Silver Line Building Products Corp., an Andersen Company, one of the county’s largest employers, were among the accomplishments of which he was most proud.
“He’s kept the airport in really good condition,” Goerlich said.
“I’ve been to a lot of county airports, and we can be proud of the one we have, and I think a lot of that is because of Dan’s leadership.”
Most recently, Stover helped the airport obtain a federal grant to complete a 1,000-foot taxiway, which he said will open the airport for the construction of corporate hangars when the economy grows stronger; the project was completed in October at a cost of about $316,000.
Schertzer recalled a conversation he had with Stover shortly after joining Marion City Council in 1999.
“I think what he really wanted to see out there … was a complete makeover or a brand new terminal,” he said, adding that many of the grants secured with Stover’s leadership were for improvements to runway and drainage, “things most people never saw when they went to the airport.”
On a personal note, he said, after becoming a councilman he learned he and Stover had some common interests.
“I realized Dan had a similar passion for politics and public policy that I did, which I never knew, … and during elections and campaigns, even during my own campaigns, Dan would call out of the blue, and we’d chat politics,” he said. “I enjoyed that and appreciated his interests in politics.”
Clark said the airport commission has scheduled an executive committee meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday “to figure out how we need to proceed.”
Goerlich said the commission makes recommendations to the city, which will make decisions regarding a replacement for the aviation director.