Johnston hops from Lake Havasu to Kingman as airport manager

The City of Kingman has hired Steven Johnston as manager of Kingman Airport at a salary of $84,000 a year, the City reported Friday. (Daily Miner file photo)

The City of Kingman has hired Steven Johnston as manager of Kingman Airport at a salary of $84,000 a year, the City reported Friday. (Daily Miner file photo)

KINGMAN – The City of Kingman has hired Steven Johnston as manager of Kingman Airport at a salary of $84,000 a year, the City reported Friday.

Johnston has 27 years of airport management experience, including 11 years as manager of Lake Havasu Municipal Airport.

He has a thorough knowledge of Federal Aviation Administration and Arizona Department of Transportation aeronautics policies, and good lines of communication with both agencies, said Gary Kellogg, director of economic development and planning for Kingman.

“We’re excited to have him as part of our team, and he has great experience in aviation development and Kingman is really going to benefit from that,” Kellogg said.

Along with managing the airport, Johnston will be responsible for improvement projects, grants, budgets, leases and other duties associated with the airport.

His experience in community outreach and collaboration will prove an asset for the community, Kellogg added.

Johnston was manager at Marina Municipal Airport in California and helped the former military facility manager transition to a civilian airport. He also worked at Arlington Municipal Airport and at Seattle-Tacoma Airport in Washington.

Johnston, who was selected over Dennis Rouleau for the job, said he’s done some research on the history and operation of Kingman Airport, but there’s a lot he doesn’t know.

“I want to get my feet on the ground and get a sense of history and how things operate as they are currently set,” he said in an interview Friday. “Once I get the lay of the land, we’ll start going down that dynamic.”

It starts with the airport’s master plan and where the community wants to take it from both the industrial side and aviation, Johnston said.

“A large part of this is public participation in that huge economic driver, which is that airport,” he said. “You have all the infrastructure, the interchange coming and the Interstate (11).”

The City recently regained control of Kingman Airport and Industrial Park from Kingman Airport Authority, which had a 25-year lease for operation and management of the airport and 1,100-acre industrial park.

The airport and industrial park is strategically located between Interstate 40 and Route 66, served by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad and a 6,827-foot runway capable of handling large jets.

The airport was developed as a B-17 gunnery training facility during World War II, and was turned over to Mohave County after the war. Mohave County transferred ownership to the City of Kingman, which signed a lease agreement with Kingman Airport Authority.

Unhappy with progress at the airport, the City filed a notice of condemnation with KAA’s board of directors in December to use its power of eminent domain to take possession of Kingman Airport, the surrounding industrial park and other property leased by KAA.

Mohave County Superior Court Judge Steve Moss ruled in favor of the City of Kingman in April with an order granting the city immediate possession of Kingman Airport Authority.

There are about 150 general aviation operators, individual aircraft owners and business at the airport. It was the Airport Users Association that began putting heat on KAA management and board members to improve the facilities and listen to their concerns.

Dave French retired in December as executive director of KAA, and Bob Riley’s position of economic director was eliminated with the takeover. Most of the revenue at the airport comes from storage of some 250 surplus aircraft.

Johnston said two things struck him about taking the job in Kingman. One was that the aviators tended to care about the airport, and two, the City also cared.

“They want to make this work. In today’s world, that’s kind of rare,” he said.