With the exception of when an airplane is taking off at Leesburg International Airport, most people probably don’t pay much attention to the sprawling complex as they drive west along U.S. Highway 441 to Lake Square Mall or the communities of Tavares, Eustis and Mount Dora beyond.
But with 28 businesses, 22 private tenants and three nonprofit groups employing a total of about 350 workers, not to mention almost 50,000 airplanes taking off annually, there’s a lot going on at the 818-acre airport. And it’s Leo Treggi’s job to make sure things fly right as the airport’s new operations manager.
“This is something that I have a passion for,” Treggi said Tuesday, reflecting on his second month on the job of the city’s airport that supports itself without placing a burden on taxpayers.
“I really like working in an airport environment; I just think it’s a beautiful place to be,” he said. “My main goal is to make this airport an asset for the entire community … I believe this airport will fulfill its mission of bringing economic development and benefit the city with its economic impact.”
Treggi said Wipaire Inc., the city’s newest and largest tenant that services seaplanes, could bring millions of dollars to Leesburg.
“I am extremely excited about it; one of the things that excites me most is developing the airport,” said Treggi, who believes the airport can soar to greater heights and bring more businesses to the city. “A lot of people don’t realize the true potential of the airport.”
Treggi said he plans to go after more federal and state grants for the airport, and he’s involved in preliminary work for a new seaplane ramp on Lake Harris. He said the city will benefit from $420,000 in federal grants, and possibly more dollars, for the ramp project that he expects will move forward next year and could possibly be completed in 2015.
The ramp will help Wipaire service pilots needing work on their seaplanes and Tavares officials believe it will be an asset in drawing more seaplane business to their city, dubbed “America’s Seaplane City.”
Treggi also is keeping tabs on whether the Federal Aviation Administration will close Leesburg’s airport tower, which was initially talked about as possible budget cuts on the national level. If the tower is closed, he said the airport will still be able to function.
Treggi, 33, a Brazilian native and U.S. Navy veteran from January 2004 to August 2010, comes to the Leesburg airport after having served as airfield manager at Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Milton, and Middleton Airfield in Evergreen, Ala. He also worked briefly as assistant operations manager for a large commercial airport in Brazil.
He received his commercial pilot’s license at age 19 and earned his bachelor’s degree in professional aeronautics, with a minor in aviation safety, in 2009 from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Pensacola campus. This was followed by his first master’s degree in 2010 in aeronautical science; a second master’s degree in business administration in aviation in 2012; and he’s preparing to f inish his thesis for his third master’s degree in liberal arts for studies in environmental science and policy from the University of South Florida.
Treggi also is a part-time, second-year law student at student at Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Riverview.
“I believe it (a law degree) could improve my skills in airport management because I deal a lot with regulations and contracts,” Treggi said. “I want the degree and the knowledge; it’s the best fit for me.”
Another great fit is that his Leesburg job is a part-time position of about 25 hours a week, allowing Treggi time for his law school studies.
“Leo is just a tremendous asset; he has a lot of talent and experience behind him,” said Robert Sargent, Leesburg spokesperson, who noted the city interviewed several candidates for the airport operations manager job. “Leo stood out above the crowd,” he said.