After announcing her imminent departure from her position as airport director of Martha’s Vineyard Airport, Ann Richart will say goodbye to her colleagues and begin a position as aviation director for the state of Nebraska.
At an airport commission meeting Thursday, Richart exchanged farewells with the folks she has worked alongside since arriving in 2016.
This coming Monday, four finalists for the soon-to-be-vacant airport director position will be interviewed and given a tour of the airport and the Island. After the tour, commissioners will enter executive session to discuss the candidates, and to possibly select a candidate.
Afterward, an open meeting will be called to order, and the decision will be made public.
Part of Richart’s decision to leave her job on Martha’s Vineyard, she said, was to be closer to her family and her elderly mother. “Nebraska might not be on the West Coast, but it’s a whole lot closer than here,” she said.
Richart thanked her friends and colleagues for their hard work in turning the airport into what it is today. “I just wanted to thank you for the opportunity to serve you all in this great community,” she said.
She mentioned that although there is still progress to be made on the airport, many great steps have already been taken to create the best facility possible for the Vineyard. “We have accomplished a lot,” Richart said. “We built this building on schedule and on budget. The runway project is going great, and probably in the next year or two, we will complete the crosswind runway.”
Although the interior of the terminal is aging, Richart said notable progress has been made in all respects — from getting a new, more efficient boiler to improving the restrooms, and creating an entire facilities department.
“With that, I want to let you know that in about a month I take over as the state aviation director for the state of Nebraska,” she said. “I am looking forward to that. In the past I have served as the state aviation director for the state of Oregon. I am not aware of anybody that has served in that position in two different states, so that might be a new thing.”
After speaking a little on her new position and her new life, Richart acknowledged the amount of work that still needs to be done on the airport facilities.
“I am aware we are still having growing pains; that’s part of what it takes to go from the position we were in to the position we are in now,” she said. “We are on a much better path than we were three years ago.”
Richart thanked assistant airport director Geoff Freeman, who is one of the candidates for the job, for his endless dedication and passion to the airport.
“Geoff is an outstanding asset to you, and I hope you recognize that, in whatever position he continues to serve. He knows where the good stuff is, and he knows where the problems are,” she said. “This airport is his soul.”
When asked how he felt about being a finalist for the airport director position, Freeman said, “I’m very excited just to have gotten this far. I feel it’s a natural step up for me — I have been here for so long, and have worked a lot on this airport.”
“It has been great living here and seeing what the airport has become. There are lots of good candidates out there, but I’m excited to at least make it to this part of the process,” Freeman added.
At approximately 5 pm Thursday, construction crews finished operations on the secondary (crosswind) runway, according to Freeman. That runway is now open for regular air traffic.
He said that the secondary runway has been under construction for the past three days, and he is happy to see that everything is going according to schedule.
The primary runway, runway 624, is in its full construction phase. Crews are laying the base layer of asphalt on the runway, and afterward will add a 2-inch top layer of asphalt. After paving the primary runway, lines and demarcations will be painted on the asphalt. The anticipated completion date for the primary runway is on or before May 15, according to Freeman.
Toward the end of June, there will be night closures in order for workers to groove the pavement to facilitate better drainage.
Regarding the imminent completion of the airport’s main runway, Freeman said, “It’s a great feeling; unfortunately, it has been causing a drop in air traffic. But I know the end result is going to be an amazing, extremely well-done runway.”
Freeman provided an update on the per- or polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) issues, recalling that the airport found out about the presence of the chemicals while the runway project was in its beginning construction phase. “The DEP wanted us to look at soils from the project and test for PFAS,” Freeman said. “We are happy to say the tests came back totally clean.”
Freeman said the clean tests are “a huge relief for the sake of the runway project,” and provide the airport with a better idea of where PFAS hotspots are and aren’t located.
“We are taking this issue very seriously, and we feel for all the people that are being affected by this,” Freeman said.