Julia Roberts Goad
VARNEY — When the Mingo County Air Transportation Park opened Friday, the name on the lips of all those who spoke was Mike Whitt, who was called a visionary for Mingo County.
Mike Whitt’s life of service to the county spanned time spent as a school teacher, coach, legislator, and at the time of his death last year, as Executive Director of the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority.
General Robert “Doc” Foglesong, MCRA board member, said Whitt worked without concern for accolades.
“Mike didn’t give a whit about credit,” Foglesong said. “He epitomized what Mingo County is, he always put service before self.”
The airport is the result of a partnership between Alpha Natural Resources, the Mingo County Airport Authority, MCRA, and FAA and the West Virginia Aeronautics Commission.
Alpha Natural Resources donated 975 acres for the project, brought 5,000 feet of runway up to rough grade, constructed an access road and developed adjacent properties for future development.
To date, the FAA and WVAC have contributed nearly $4.5 million to the project for final grading of the runway and taxiway, paving of the runway, lighting, wind instrumentation and electrical facilities.
U.S. Representative Nick Joe Rahall also praised the MCRA as a model for the nation, noting the successful public-private partnerships it helped to create under the stewardship of Mike Whitt and its work in the opening of the Air Transportation Park.
“Mike Whitt was like a force of nature, sweeping up everyone and every resource in his path swirling them into one of the most effective teams and partnerships this State and our country have ever seen,” Rahall said.
“The federal government needs to keep listening as the redevelopment authority carries on Mike’s vision, one that was light-years ahead of other jurisdictions when he began forging public-private partnerships to save taxpayer dollars, leveraging public funding and, above all, creating good paying sustainable jobs for families. We will finish the job in large part because Mike’s legacy lives on in investment he made in Leasha Johnson, the leadership of Steve Kominar, and the dedication of the Redevelopment Authority Board,” the representative said.
MCRA Executive Director Steve Kominar said the airport is part of a nation infrastructure, and as such is important to development in the state.
“The Mingo County Air Transportation Park is part of the Heartland Corridor, as is the intermodal facility in Wayne County” Kominar said. “This is pure public-private partnership. It is the future, and it fits hand in hand with the Corridor. This is a great opportunity for Mingo County.”
Foglesong summed up the feeling of all the speakers on the mountain, standing before aircraft which had landed and would soon take off from the new tarmac.
“I am from Mingo County,” he said, “and damn proud of it.”