Boone County Judge Robert Hathaway attended Tuesday afternoon's Boone County Regional Airport Board meeting to read a proclamation honoring board member Dr. Lynn Keener, whose term was expiring. Keener had served multiple terms on the board, taking some breaks in between, since 1979 totaling 30 years.
Hathaway read the proclamation recognizing the service and dedication of all the board members who serve on the airport board, both past and present. He cited Keener who began serving as a board member in 1979.
Besides Hathaway, also attending were Dale Wagner and James Norton, both former county judges. There have been seven chief county executives during that span including Mike Moore, and the late Clifford Tomlinson, Cliff Gale and Laverne Grayson.
During his years of service, Keener and his fellow board members administered $15,453,608 in airport improvement grants, Hathaway's proclamation noted.
Similar sentiments were expressed in a letter from Arkansas' Third District Congressman Steve Womack (R-Rogers). The letter was read aloud by Teri Garrett, the congressman's field representative based in Harrison.
Board member Tom Benton, who will take over as chairman in July said, "I appreciate your integrity, your stewardship and your contributions."
A Harrison dentist, Keener became interested in flying in the early days of the airport. He said he soloed at the airport to earn his pilot's wings 50 years ago this month.
"It's been my pleasure to work with some great quorum court members and previous airport board members," Keener said. "Everybody was pulling on the same end of the rope to make the airport a better place."
His earliest memories of the airport were when it had one runway from northwest/southeast. Central Airlines was landing here in a DC 3.
The congressman from Harrison at the time, John Paul Hammerschmidt, was wise enough to get this designated an air carrier status airport so federal money began coming to the airport for its development, Keener said.
"I've been involved in a lot of decisions on this airport in these 30 years," Keener said, but noted that the most important decision made by the board was while he was serving as chairman in an earlier term was to hire Judy McCutcheon as the airport manager. That drew applause by the many people who were in attendance.
Norton said it is good to see how well the airport is doing, thanking the board and McCutcheon for their dedication. "This is a county treasure."
Wagner said he recalls when the Instrument Landing System was installed with FAA funds that Hammerschmidt secured for the airport. The FAA kept dragging their feet, so he called the congressman's office. It wasn't long before the FAA went into action on the project. "So, we can thank (the late) John Paul and all of the board members and especially Judy," he said.
Keener said that transportation has always been a part of this country. Years ago, it was important that a railroad served a town or if a town was on a river it had a port. Now it's aviation that is so important.
He brought attention to the airport's current importance due to the presence of FedEx Freight being able to fly their planes here and the transportation services provided by Southern Airways, which has a high completion factor — up to 100% in some months.
Jim Kelly, of Harrison, a former corporate pilot for FedEx, will be taking Keener's seat on the board at the July meeting.