Everything is not necessarily as it seems. That’s true in political endeavors more often than we might want to believe. A case of mistaken assumptions was recently uncovered at my home airport. Perhaps you will find the story beneficial to you and your attempts to positively affect the management of your local airport.
The airport advisory committee that periodically gathers to discuss issues big and small at Florida’s Gilbert Field has been in existence for approximately a decade. It’s a good group of well-intentioned individuals who want to do their best to provide insight and guidance to our airport director. That’s a noble goal, and I appreciate the sacrifice of time and effort each member has provided in order to keep the ball rolling along.
Recently, a member voiced concern about the direction the airport advisory group was taking. Understandably, that voice of dissent kicked off a flurry of emails, quite a few conversations, and some serious inquiries into what the mission of the group was, and what the bylaws said.
That’s where this story really gets interesting — because in researching the papers that established the advisory group it was discovered that some important steps were skipped. Rather than being set up as a real advisory group that had the backing of the city commission and city hall, it turns out the advisory group was never anything more than an isolated group of interested people who had no real standing in the process of running the airport. That’s not their fault, either. They were doing their best to be effective. But without a support structure or an avenue to real success, they might as well have been running for president in their living room. No matter how great a job they might have done, they really had no ability to do anything of significance for the airport.
Fortunately, realizing that something is wrong is the first step to setting things right again. And that process is in play now. Our airport advisory committee is being remodeled, correctly, with the full knowledge and support of the city commission and city staff who will help create the new documents that give the group the authority to work hand in hand with the airport’s management. In other words we’re starting over and doing it right this time.
Admittedly, that’s an annoyance. But it’s an annoyance that leads to progress. Just like a mechanic who learns to weld through trial and error, we’re correcting past mistakes and setting them right. In the end the work we do will be better, and the effect will be more lasting. That’s a good thing.
I mention all this because this scenario isn’t all that unusual. Three years ago I was elected to the chairmanship of a board, and in my preparations to do the job well, I found that the board had been founded with the intention of disbanding it when the pilot project it oversaw was completed. The pilot project had ended nine years before I was elected — yet the board still met on a regular basis. Nine chairmen and chairwomen had come and gone before the mistake was discovered.
Not all boards and committees are created equally. So allow me the latitude to suggest to anyone who sits on a board, or a committee that has oversight or advisory power — do your homework. Find your mission statement. Find your bylaws. Look through the minutes of past meetings. Go back years if you have to. But find the information that gives you the authority to do the work you’re setting out to do. If it’s not there, at least you’ll know before you waste too much time doing nothing of consequence.
You can always start over from the beginning. We are — and our advisory group will be better for the effort. I have no doubt.
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 maintains multiple blogs and interacts via the Internet at JamieBeckett.com. He can be reached at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.