A vision becomes reality

At the Coffee Shop

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“GET ER DONE, SPANKY!” Those were the last words Commissioner Mike Rhoades said to Matt Aultman the day he left office. The reference was to the Darke County Airport, Mike’s passion ever since he was elected 20 years earlier. As with most offices, the first of the year, the Commissioners set down and figure out which committees and such they will be a part of. Since Mike was the new guy, he got assigned the ones the others didn’t really want, and one of them was the airport. Mike was lucky because he saw something in the airport that others didn’t; an economic tool that was being underused.

Fast forward to 2011, and another young commissioner is coming into office (me) and my committees and assignments were pretty good, but Mike kept the airport. Mike and I talked about the airport a lot, and since the economy in Darke County was coming around in 2015 or so, places like Whirlpool, JAFE Glass, Midmark, and others were starting to grow, Mike’s vision for the airport was starting to take shape. 

One of the most fortunate things for Darke County was when Mike got to meet John Mayfield, Great  Lakes regional director of the FAA.  Mike had been to Romulus, Michigan to see John, and to hear Mike tell it, John scared him to death! Mike said he slammed his hand on the table and told him that he was the man!  For some unknown reason, John and Mike hit it off after that start! 

He talked John into coming to Darke County and see what our airport needed, at that time the lengthening of the runway. John did come down, and when we met with him in Midmark’s Hanger, John, Mike and Todd Dammeyer of Midmark were talking, as I stood talking to the two women who came with John. 

They told me that we must be special! I asked why and she said that John never goes out to small airports, and they had driven around and saw what we were trying to do in Darke County.  We then met and drove to the end of the runway where Susan Laux, our Grants Co-ordinator, talked to John, along with Mike. 

To make a long story short, we got funded, and thanks to Mike and his continuing friendship with John Mayfield to this day, Mr. Mayfield has been extremely helpful to Darke County.  Make no mistakes about this, Mike Rhoades started the airport down the path of modernization and growth because of him, Matt and I worked with Mike to make it happen, but Mike was the driving force behind it. 

It was easy to see Mike’s vision, and getting on board for Matt and I was a no-brainer.  The rest of the story, and there are plenty of successes, is now history, but the growth of the airport in all facets has been the work of the FAA, the ODOT office of Aviation, and the commissioner’s office working together to grow Darke County. These are relationships that we have established and want to continue……..and it is still working!

At the grand opening of the New Terminal building on the 26th of April, John Mayfield and Mike met and talked like two old friends. Mike gave a history of the airport, and when you realize what has been accomplished there, it is truly impressive for a small county like ours to achieve so much.  

Most people don’t understand the importance and economic possibilities the airport has for Darke County. They think it is just for big companies and people who have small planes to land and makes no impact on the economy of Darke County. They are wrong! Thankfully, Darke County had a Commissioner who could see the future, and the impact of the airport on the County.  

Thanks Mike, from all of us……you did good!