Airport Authority celebrates Johnson and Thomas, appoints leadership

By Bobby Bordelon

Changes for past and current Greenbrier Valley Airport personnel were a prime focus for the socially-distant Airport Authority meeting on Tuesday, July 7. The board honored the departure of a board member and public safety manager, welcomed their replacements, and approved a cost-of-living raise for all full-time hourly employees.

Members of the public could attend the socially distance airport meeting over Zoom or call in.

Past Airport Authority Chairman Lowell Johnson’s position expired July 1, with Johnson not asking to be reappointed. In the June 23 meeting of the Greenbrier County Commission, Jerry Cook was appointed to fill Johnson’s seat.

“We look forward to working with you Jerry and appreciate your willingness to serve,” said Phillips.

According to a letter written in honor of Johnson by current Chairman Deborah Phillips, Johnson joined the Airport Authority in 2010, soon becoming chairman of the board. In his nine years as chair, he “was responsible for making numerous changes to airport operations including overseeing compliance to GAP accounting procedures and in updating of facilities.”

“Mr. Johnson has enjoyed a stellar career in public service,” wrote Phillips. “We appreciate his commitment to West Virginia and the people of Greenbrier County. Please join me in thanking him for his commitment to public service and his efforts on behalf of the Greenbrier Valley Airport Authority.”

Johnson is not the only change for the airport – now former Public Safety Manager Randy Thomas retired from his position on June 30. The airport board thanked Thomas for his work and considered who would take his place.

“I named Toby Fleshman acting public safety manager and he’s done a great job,” Airport Director Brian Belcher said, after noting they conducted interviews for the position. “I recommend him.”

Fleshman was promoted from his previous position of fire chief. Phillips said he had already passed all the required safety training.

“He’s very happy to have that position,” Phillips said.

Finally, current employees of the airport will also see a change – a two percent cost-of-living raise for all hourly airport employees was approved by the authority, beginning on July 1.

In addition to the cost-of-living raise, Belcher was approved given additional control over a within-budget, one-time wage rate adjustment for employees who have taken on more responsibilities as a result of shifting job necessities.

Before putting the adjustments to a vote, Phillips noted each was its own motion due to the complicated payroll situation the airport is currently sorting through, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The problem we ran into, when you start getting into issues with personnel and the fact we have so many people being paid by different grants and things, is that you have to be very specific with what you’re doing,” Phillips said. “The good news is hopefully we won’t get into the situation where we have some absences due to the virus.”

In other business:

• The budget was considered by the board. For more information, see the article titled ‘500K in change orders ‘not authorized’ by Airport Authority, operating budget saved by CARES Act.”

• Board officers were approved, with Phillips reconfirmed to the seat and Boardmember, and Greenbrier County Commissioner, Tammy Shifflett-Tincher approved to serve as Vice Chairman.

• Noting state laws on open meetings, Belcher explained after the meeting that the next socially distanced board meeting would be equipped technologically to better hear each individual board member as they spoke.

• Belcher was approved to advertise for a full-time lineman position.

• The board entered executive session in order to consider disciplinary actions, evaluations, grievances, transfers, and more.

To read the full dedication to Johnson, see the letter below:

July 1, 2020

From: Deborah Phillips, Chairman

To: Greenbrier Valley Airport Authority Board & Staff

Past Chairman Lowell Johnson’s position on the Greenbrier Valley Airport Authority Board expires July 1, 2020. Mr. Johnson did not ask to be reappointed and his position has been filled by the Greenbrier County Commission.

He was appointed to the Airport Authority in 2010. Within a few months of his appointment, he became Chairman of the Authority Board and served 9 years in that capacity.During his tenure as Chairman he was responsible for making numerous changes to airport operations including overseeing compliance to GAP accounting procedures and in updating of facilities.

During his public service career he served as the Assistant Secretary for Ports in the West Virginia Department of Transportation, where he carried out policy on air transportation for Governor Bob Wise.

A native of Greenbrier County, Mr. Johnson holds a bachelor degree in education from Concord College, a master in guidance and counseling, and a doctorate in reading and psychology from West Virginia University. He taught in the public school system in Greenbrier County, was a professor at Fairmont State College for 11 years and taught at Bluefield State College, where he was chair of the Division of Education.

Dr. Johnson was appointed to the state Board of Education in January 2004. During his tenure he served as its President and Vice President.

Mr. Johnson served as president of the West Virginia Education Association for four years and served on the National Education Board of Directors.

Mr. Johnson has enjoyed a stellar career in public service. We appreciate his commitment to West Virginia and the people of Greenbrier County.

Please join me in thanking him for his commitment to public service and his efforts on behalf of the Greenbrier Valley airport Authority.