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Kingman Airport Authority Director Dave French announces his retirement

Dave French - Airport Authority Director

Dave French - Airport Authority Director

Dave French announced his retirement Tuesday as executive director of Kingman Airport Authority effective Dec. 31, a decision that he said has “absolutely nothing” to do with the pressure KAA is getting from Kingman City Council.

French served on the airport board for 22 years and was airport director for another 11 years. He said he wanted to retire in 2014, but board president Jean Liss and later Krystal Burge pleaded with him to stay.

This is French’s second formal retirement. He spent 34 years as an executive in the telecommunications industry before retiring at age 56.

“I swore to God that I would not work to the day that I have a seven in front of my age,” French said. “I’m 69. I tried to retire in 2014 and was asked by Jean Liss to stay with her through her presidency. ‘You need to stick with me.’ Those were her words.”

French said he wants to spend time with his 4- and 7-year-old granddaughters, having worked through all three of his own children’s growing years and his oldest granddaughter’s childhood.

“A couple months ago I drew a line in the sand and said, ‘Look, I’m leaving,’” French said. “What am I supposed to do, work until I’m 90?”

Prior to being hired as executive director, French was elected president of the board for three terms. Under his leadership, the airport established the first short-line railroad (Kingman Terminal RR), built a new terminal with administrative offices and fire station, and developed a revenue stream with Kingman Airline Services.

The airport authority has been under fire for what some council members see as a lack of financial transparency and thwarted deals that could lead to economic development.

Paul Gaines, who operates Composite Solutions aircraft fabrication at the airport and is a member of the Airfield Committee, has been one of the more vocal critics of KAA.

He told the Daily Miner last year that he would never have relocated his business from Atlanta to Kingman had he known how difficult it would be working with management. It’s a “toxic environment” between airport tenants and the authority, he said.

“I am neutral on this decision,” Gaines said Tuesday. “However, the time is long overdue for some positive leadership changes to take place. I only hope this is the beginning.”

A series of four public workshops had been scheduled, but the airport authority’s lawyer cancelled the final workshop due to lack of progress.

City Councilman Travis Lingenfelter, who campaigned mightily on a platform of taking the airport assets back under city control, said he wishes French well and knows he will still be active in the community.

“I’ve always told people that whomever it is managing our airport and industrial park assets, performance and an unwavering commitment to excellence in proactively building our assets is key,” he said.

One reason Lingenfelter wants the KAA managed by the City of Kingman is that staff salaries would be programmed into the city budget, and the city could make sure that all proceeds from land sales, hangar leases and airplane storage would be reinvested in the assets.

“That one change would result in a night-and-day difference,” he said.

French said he accomplished what he wanted at Kingman Airport Authority. This year, KAA will be in the “black” for the first time since it was formed in 1979, he said.

Employment at Kingman Airport and Industrial Park has also grown by 379 jobs in the past 11 years, even though Aero-Flite tanker fleet left the airport in 2014 and Scot Industries pipe supplier is terminating its lease to build a new plant in Golden Valley.

French took Kingman Airport Authority from being a sales-based enterprise to one that incorporates land leases as well. Some 950 acres of land has been released by the FAA for either sales or lease for industrial development.

“You can’t live by selling your assets all the time,” he said.

The airport’s primary source of income is through a tenant lease with Kingman Airline Services, which has 243 commercial airplanes in storage. French also restructured tenant leases for private hangars, making them competitive with similar airports.

Two runways, seven taxiways and ramp areas have been rebuilt, and dross site remediation from World War II smelting is on track for a settlement with the federal government. That will expand areas that can be used as ramps and taxiways.

French has served on the Kingman Regional Medical Center board of directors since 1985 and was elected chairman in 2009.

The airport authority has been under fire for what some council members see as a lack of financial transparency and thwarted deals that could lead to economic development.

Paul Gaines, who operates Composite Solutions aircraft fabrication at the airport and is a member of the Airfield Committee, has been one of the more vocal critics of KAA.

He told the Daily Miner last year that he would never have relocated his business from Atlanta to Kingman had he known how difficult it would be working with management. It’s a “toxic environment” between airport tenants and the authority, he said.

“I am neutral on this decision,” Gaines said Tuesday. “However, the time is long overdue for some positive leadership changes to take place. I only hope this is the beginning.”

A series of four public workshops had been scheduled, but the airport authority’s lawyer cancelled the final workshop due to lack of progress.

City Councilman Travis Lingenfelter, who campaigned mightily on a platform of taking the airport assets back under city control, said he wishes French well and knows he will still be active in the community.

“I’ve always told people that whomever it is managing our airport and industrial park assets, performance and an unwavering commitment to excellence in proactively building our assets is key,” he said.

One reason Lingenfelter wants the KAA managed by the City of Kingman is that staff salaries would be programmed into the city budget, and the city could make sure that all proceeds from land sales, hangar leases and airplane storage would be reinvested in the assets.

“That one change would result in a night-and-day difference,” he said.

French said he accomplished what he wanted at Kingman Airport Authority. This year, KAA will be in the “black” for the first time since it was formed in 1979, he said.

Employment at Kingman Airport and Industrial Park has also grown by 379 jobs in the past 11 years, even though Aero-Flite tanker fleet left the airport in 2014 and Scot Industries pipe supplier is terminating its lease to build a new plant in Golden Valley.

French took Kingman Airport Authority from being a sales-based enterprise to one that incorporates land leases as well. Some 950 acres of land has been released by the FAA for either sales or lease for industrial development.

“You can’t live by selling your assets all the time,” he said.

The airport’s primary source of income is through a tenant lease with Kingman Airline Services, which has 243 commercial airplanes in storage. French also restructured tenant leases for private hangars, making them competitive with similar airports.

Two runways, seven taxiways and ramp areas have been rebuilt, and dross site remediation from World War II smelting is on track for a settlement with the federal government. That will expand areas that can be used as ramps and taxiways.

French has served on the Kingman Regional Medical Center board of directors since 1985 and was elected chairman in 2009.