Four new state employees could become some of the best known
staffers of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission while helping
local economic development efforts at the same time.
The quartet, who will be known as aviation field
representatives, will be assigned to assist sponsors of municipal
and county airports throughout the state, helping cut red tape
for state and federal construction grants. They also will make
public appearances throughout their areas, helping to gain
community support for airport projects.
Because airport growth generally is translated into economic
growth, the field representatives also will provide valuable
information for economic development planners and industrial
recruiters, said Nancy Reese Barrett, the commission's deputy
"Most of that is not in their job descriptions, but that's
what they will end up doing in reality," she said. "Their basic
job will be to assist the local airport sponsors in obtaining
grants for planning, project construction, expansion and final
inspection. They will lead the sponsors through all the steps for
both state and federal grants to ensure that something is not
"Idea behind these positions is that by using a liaison person
between the airport sponsor, the state agency and the federal
agency, we will be able to leverage more federal dollars into
Oklahoma for airport improvements."
The field representatives will set up operations in district
offices of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, each
working one quadrant of the state. Newly appointed to the jobs
are Tom Graves, who will be in Perry, working with sponsors of 37
publicly owned airports and one heliport; Terry Jessup, Tulsa,
who will work with 39 airport sponsors and those at a seaplane
port; Rodney Clark, Clinton, who will work with 32 airports and a
heliport; and Don Avilez, Ada, who will have 40 airports and a
heliport under his supervision.
"All these men have aviation backgrounds, but they all are
varied," Barrett said. "What we were looking for was someone who
had some knowledge about a lot of subjects dealing with aviation,
someone who could bring a new perspective to the job.
"I think we've found four good people to handle these jobs."
Although the four men are state employees, their salaries will
come from planning grants awarded by the Federal Aviation
Administration, which regulates all aviation activities in the
They are needed because too many sponsors of small airports do
not understand fully what must be done to obtain FAA funding for
expansion or improvement projects.
"Field representatives will work with the sponsors to help do
the airport planning, both short and long range, for up to 20
years, fill out the applications and work through the FAA and
state-only grant process," she said. "They also will work with
the local sponsors to help them find contractors, consultants,
suppliers, whatever they need to complete from planning through
the final inspection.
"Because they will be so familiar with the projects, they'll
also deal with economic development planners to let them know
what's planned for the airport.
"After all, an airport must be fully accessible to everyone if
business is to expand, and there must be a good airport if new
business is to come in. These men will be aware of what's
happening and the importance of an airport to the local economy,"
Barrett said. …