Airport director to leave this week

WINDER - The director of Barrow's airport is leaving this week to take a job in Texas, but officials say his departure will not affect the airport's plans to expand service.

Tim Whitman, director of the Northeast Georgia Regional Airport, will leave Tuesday to become director of an airport in Texas. Human Resources Director Norma Jean Brown said the Texas airport is closer to Whitman's family.

The airport changed its name in December from the Winder Barrow Airport in a bid to have a wider impact on the region, Assistant Airport Director Wanda Mitchell said. She said Whitman, who worked for the county for more than six years, was a key force in the name change and efforts to improve the airport.

"He's helped with all the projects," she said. "We're always looking to better the airport."

A study completed by a Georgia Tech's Economic Development Institute last fall called for the county to identify certain gateways, or places where people enter the county. The airport was identified as one of those gateways.

Mitchell said business has been the same since the airport changed its name; however, that they hope to get new equipment that will attract more corporate and business aircraft and allow those planes to land during inclement weather.

Whitman's job will be advertised in two magazines, Brown said - Southern Aviator and Georgia Aviation News. A committee to search for Whitman's replacement was approved at a Tuesday commission meeting, and Mitchell said she expects the position to be filled by April or May.

Deputy County Administrator Michael Fischer, who is a licensed pilot, has volunteered his services as interim director, Brown said. Another county employee, Myron Garrett with the county Water Authority, is also a licensed pilot and is willing to help with the facility.

Brown said the county would miss Whitman, but the airport's future growth will likely attract a number of qualified applicants.

"Someone's going to have an awesome responsibility and a huge opportunity," she said.

County Commission Chairman Doug Garrison will chair the hiring committee, which will also employ Fischer, Garrett, Brown and Airport Authority members Sammy Everett and Don Holliday.