KINGMAN - As the Kingman Airport and Industrial Park goes, so goes Kingman.
That's the opinion of City Council candidate Gary Rucker, a member of the loosely knit Airport Users Group that has been at odds with the Kingman Airport Authority's board of directors.
In plain language, Rucker believes the authority's management and board of directors have not done nearly enough to draw new businesses - and jobs - to the area.
"This is the greatest and most under-utilized asset in all of Mohave County," said Rucker.
Rucker is a longtime pilot - he is a former aerial firefighter - who also has worked as an aviation mechanic and inspector.
Rucker said he understands the flying side and the maintenance side equally, so when someone tells him he's a one-issue candidate, he looks them in the eye and says, "That may be, but it's the one issue in which I'm an expert."
Rucker's worked for the Federal Aviation Administration in Las Vegas for the past several years and it's hard to find fault in Rucker's statement.
"I fought the authority for a long time from the outside," he said. "Now I want to do it from the inside."
Here's where things get tricky. The city owns the airport and park and contracts its management - including bringing in businesses interested in taking advantage of the airport's proximity to rail service - to the airport authority.
Rucker is one of a growing number of people who have grown frustrated with the lack of any new business at the airport for more than seven years. Director Dave French and Economic Development Director Bob Riley said the airport has yet to recover from the Great Recession and they cite the vast number of midsize commercial airliners using the airport for long-term parking.
That frustration has bled over to the city, which has a contract with the authority that many believe is one-sided in the authority's favor. French was a member of the city council that approved the contract about a decade ago.
In the meantime, the current City Council is anything but united on the airport question. Some want a do-over on the contract and others believe the authority is doing the best it can.
And while some believe the agreement offers nothing to the city - not even the usually boilerplate performance requirements - French has indicated the contract is iron clad and he has no intention of agreeing to add such standards.
This has rankled Rucker, who has leveled personal attacks against management and the board of directors and he remains unapologetic.
"Dave French has an empire they don't want to see fall down and he's an emperor," said Rucker.
He's also been critical of City Attorney Carl Cooper, who has determined the contract is sound, at least from a legal perspective.
"The city has the ability to modify," Rucker said.
As for the lack of growth at the airport and industrial park, Rucker said he and his wife "worked night and day" during the recession to keep the commercial buildings they own occupied with paying tenants.
"If we can do it, they can do it," he said, "and they're over-staffed."
Rucker, a 1972 graduate of Kingman High, was born and raised in Kingman, as were his parents, children and grandchildren.
While he considers overhauling the way the airport and industrial park the single most important step the city could take, Rucker also would work to keep downtown's revitalization moving forward and to build on the city's ties to Route 66 and tourism.