Members of the Kingman Airport Authority probably feel like they’ve traveled back in time to 1944.
Back then the Army Air Corps taught its troops how to be aerial and ground gunners right here in Kingman.
Executive Director Dave French and crew can hear the metaphorical scream of engines as aircraft maneuver in the skies. They feel the shock of bombs crashing into the earth. Their nerves fray under the rat-a-tat-tat of heavy machine gun fire.
French is definitely in the crosshairs of a growing number of residents who have grown frustrated with the authority. Politicians and political candidates and everyday people are fed up.
They want jobs that pay more than fast food does. They want security and a sense that what they do matters.
More than anything, they want to have the confidence that Kingman will have a tomorrow worth waking up to.
But just like those soldiers who trained here during World War II, not everybody’s criticism is hitting the target. Not everyone knows what they’re saying, but they’re still going to open the bay doors and let the bombs drop.
It is unfair to blame French for the lack of meaningful activity at the Kingman Airport and Industrial Park. At least, you can’t blame him for all of it.
Unfortunately, perception is reality and people’s perception of French is that he’s rude, arrogant, abrupt and far from open and engaging.
And when he’s not all of those things, he’s smug. Smug people are easy to dislike.
But here’s the real problem with the Kingman Airport and Industrial Park and French’s role as its leader. And again, this is about the community’s perception, not mine.
They will tell you that French doesn’t believe he needs to answer to anyone. He’s got his ironclad contract that demands absolutely nothing from him or his employees when it comes to meeting standards.
Everybody who has a job should have to meet some benchmark. I’m learning a new skill right now and I’m struggling. I’m pretty sure my bosses quietly discuss my lack of progress behind closed doors and sadly shake their heads, thinking, “I had no idea Doug was so soft in the head.”
The contract the City Council signed with the airport authority about a decade ago won’t expire until 2028, but only on paper because there is an automatic 25-year renewal, meaning French, myself and a lot of you will likely be dead before the contract runs its course.
For the next 37 years the Kingman Airport Authority will be in charge of the city’s greatest asset – and nobody who works for it will have to do anything to convince us they deserve the job.
The reason for the ridiculously lengthy contract, ironically, was to give security to businesses that would open up shop at the airport and industrial park. It was necessary if all those jobs that give people hope for the future were going to come to fruition.
It would be patently unfair to blame French – and only French – for the lack of success given the rotten economy over the past decade, but he deserves some of the heat he’s getting. You can’t treat people like they’re worth less than a dried out cow patty and expect them to shake it off.
You can’t be arrogant and you can’t smugly ignore an entire community just because you are the beneficiary of the worst contract ever signed in the history of contracts.
This I know: Every candidate for mayor and City Council – save Harley Pettit – has cited changing the status quo at the airport and industrial park as one of his or her top priorities.
Right or wrong, Mr. French, they are gunning for you.