Readers write to me from time to time. I’m glad they do. The wonders of the computer age allow us to communicate with each other more easily and productively than ever before. Email doesn’t cost a thing, and with the ability to attach photos, as well as links to videos or other content, means that virtually anyone can get their message out to a significantly large and influential audience quickly.
Most of the messages I receive from readers are intended to address something I wrote. More often than not they’re congratulatory. Readers tend to write to people they agree with. Then again, I am not unfamiliar with the critical email that suggests I’m out to lunch, just plain wrong, or possibly not too bright. There are days when my wife would agree with all three of those suggestions. Heck, there are days when I might not disagree with them very strenuously either.
The emails that are most memorable to me, however, are the ones that suggest the writer is in the process of making a transition from being a passive player to become a more active participant. I include Paul Andrews in that bunch. He’s gotten my attention in recent weeks. Perhaps he can provide you with a bit of inspiration, too.
Paul is a General Aviation News reader and a long-time AOPA member with a strong background in aviation. He’s spent time in the United States Air Force, the Army National Guard, and the Reserves. With flight engineer tickets for both turbojet and reciprocating engined aircraft, Paul has spent his fair share of time sitting sideways in flight where he earned a living knowing where all the buttons and switches were, and being familiar with which position they should be in at any particular phase of the flight. An A&P mechanic and a pilot, too, he’s also the president of the Charlotte County Airport Tenants Association — and he’s running for office.
I always have mixed feelings when someone tells me they’re going to run for office. On the one hand I’m pleased, because we could use more average Janes and Joes in public office. On the other hand I’m aware that to be truly effective in any office you will have more than a few sleepless nights along the way and plenty of public backlash on even the most basic issues. You’ll receive very little in the way of appreciation, too. That’s just the nature of public office — any public office. Politics is no place to spend your time if your goal is to be loved and respected. It’s also not a job to seek out if you’re hoping to get rich. The Airport Authority seat Mr. Andrews is seeking pays a whopping $7,500 per year. I can feel his pain on that one. In my own elected seat as a city commission I earn well below minimum wage.
That’s just one of the ironies of politics. We often pay a minimal stipend to people who are in charge of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. Then we complain that our choices at the polls are slim to none.
Sacrifice is a real consideration if you’re thinking of getting into politics. I know it’s fashionable to be mad at anyone with a title, but the truth is most of these folks work very hard, in exchange for very little.
You have to get into this line of work because you believe you can make a difference and you’re willing to try. There are long hours, difficult decisions to make, it’s an uphill battle all the way, and you’ll be underpaid for sure. Still, there is no better way to serve your community than to put yourself on the ballot and stand for public office. If it truly is a government of the people as Lincoln suggested, then the people have to run for office themselves, as well as being educated voters.
It’s for those exact reasons that I am so encouraged that Paul is running for a seat on his local Airport Authority at Charlotte County Airport (PGD) in Punta Gorda, Florida. He has a positive view of aviation that comes from experience, not theoretical ruminations. In the first email Paul sent me he wrote, “I am a huge airport advocate and want to see PGD not only survive but thrive.”
That sort of drive is essential to good airport oversight. PGD has the advantage of being on the west coast of central Florida, a corner of the globe that is absolutely beautiful and highly agreeable to the aviation minded. Then again, it was one of the harder hit victims of Hurricane Charlie back in 2004 — and the realization that a storm can do real damage to the facilities and aircraft on the field are real concerns for anyone moving into an administrative capacity here on the peninsula.
Paul’s local paper, the Port Charlotte Sun, recently ran a story acknowledging his candidacy for public office. They included a photo of Andrews standing beside the nose of his Cessna 150. While I have never met him, I get the distinct impression that when aviation enthusiasts like him throw their hat in the ring, campaign for a public seat, and discuss the issues that affect aviation in a public forum, we all come out ahead.
Keep an eye on Punta Gorda’s Airport Authority in the coming year. A GAN reader will be on the ballot for the District 3 seat. Hopefully, there will be others scattered around the country filing papers and putting their names on the ballot, too.
As they say, you can’t win if you don’t play. That goes for politics and aviation, too.
Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. He is also a founding partner and regular contributor to FlightMonkeys.com. You can reach him at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.