Friday, July 12, 2013

Dream job pulls away airport manager • Columbus Municipal (KOLU), Nebraska

Mark Cozad Telegram photo by Tyler Ellyson 
 Columbus Municipal Airport Manager Mark Cozad is leaving Nebraska to take a job with the Federal Aviation Administration in Kansas City, Mo. His last day with the city was Wednesday.

COLUMBUS -- Mark Cozad’s career is taking off.

The former Columbus Municipal Airport manager left his position with the city Wednesday to take a job in Kansas City, Mo., that fulfills a professional dream.

Cozad, who served as the airport manager here for three years, starts Monday as an airport certification and safety inspector with the Federal Aviation Administration.

He will travel the central region’s four states — Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri — inspecting the 37 commercial airports there to ensure each one is in compliance with FAA regulations.

“It’s always kind of been a goal to work for the FAA,” said Cozad, expressing his thankfulness for the opportunity to take the next step in his career. “I didn’t think I would get into the FAA as quick as I did."

Although his time in Columbus was short, Cozad managed to make a big impression on the airport here and with aviation professionals across the state.

He served as the secretary/treasurer for the Nebraska Association of Airport Officials and received word of the FAA opening from other Nebraska airport managers who knew he could handle the position.

Cozad’s aviation experience goes back to his days at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in aviation systems management.

He worked for Otis Air Service, the fixed-base operator at Kearney Regional Airport, and Great Lakes Airlines before accepting the Columbus job in June 2010.

He didn’t waste any time after moving here.

Cozad oversaw several major projects while serving as airport manager, including the addition of an after-hours pilot lounge, security and electrical upgrades, acquisition of snow-removal and service equipment and development of a five-year preventative maintenance plan.

New hangar policies also were adopted during his time, and a 20-year master plan that outlines more than $20 million in potential projects at the growing airport was completed.

Many of these projects were funded with large FAA contributions.

The Nebraska Department of Aeronautics also took notice of Cozad’s accomplishments here, naming Columbus Municipal the state’s top general aviation airport for 2011 — a first-time honor for the pre-World World II aviation hub that just three years earlier transitioned to city control.

“I think this airport is very important to the city of Columbus,” said Cozad, referencing a 2003 Nebraska Department of Aeronautics study that showed the airport has a $9.6 million annual economic impact on the city.

In addition to the personal aircraft stored there, the airport serves major industrial players such as Nebraska Public Power District, Becton Dickinson, Behlen Mfg. Co. and Archer Daniels Midland.

Multiple crop spraying companies are based there, as well, contributing to the approximately 15,000 annual operations, a number that totals takeoffs and landings.

Cozad also reinstated the annual Columbus Days fly-in breakfast and helped attract events such as this week’s Wings of Freedom Tour and the 2012 Air Race Classic, which brought 55 aircraft from across the country to Columbus.

Cozad said one of his goals here was to promote the airport and generate interest among more than just those who have planes there.

“I wanted to have support from the community and really advertise the airport,” he said.

Cozad’s wife Katie worked at Personal Appearances during their time here.

“Her clients were sad to see her go,” Cozad said.

The airport manager position has been advertised on the American Association of Airport Executives website, and City Administrator Joe Mangiamelli said there has been strong interest so far.

Applications will be accepted through July 31 before the city begins whittling down the list of candidates.

Mangiamelli said a new manager will be hired as soon as possible.

Airport employee Keith Schademann and the city administrator will fill the position in the interim.

As for Cozad, “We hate to see him go,” said Mangiamelli. “He was an asset to the airport, and he was an asset to Columbus. He will be missed.”

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