ZEPHYRHILLS — More than a year after its airport manager was fired, the city is a step closer to filling the position permanently.
Advertising for the position recently closed with eight applicants, said City Manager Jim Drumm, who expects to start interviewing candidates for the position within a couple of weeks.
Among them is Nathan Coleman, who has been interim airport manager since Trina Sweet, who held the position for about five years, was fired by then City Manager Steve Spina last March. Coleman, a licensed pilot, was transferred to the position from his regular city job as water division supervisor.
While Drumm says Coleman has done a good job filling in, he opened the search to both internal and external candidates as he historically has done in other cities to make sure the city gets the best person in the role.
"There's not judgment to that," Drumm said.
Coleman has consistently been praised by council members during meetings when he has easily been able to answer their questions about the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport operations and about aviation.
"I think he's done an excellent job. He went into a situation where he didn't have a lot of knowledge," council member Lance Smith said Friday. "He went in there and learned a lot and tied up a lot of loose ends."
Still, Smith said, he agrees with the city manager that it's best to open it up to all candidates, but he hopes to keep Coleman around.
"All I know is he's an excellent employee and we need to have him in the city in some capacity," Smith said.
This airport manager is responsible for administration and general day-to-day operations of the city-owned airport, its budget, revenue generation and maintenance, as well as capital improvements and development and more. Pay for the position starts around $52,400 annually and the manager reports to the city manager.
The new manager will be coming in at a critical time in the airport's history. The airport is in the midst of major repairs and upgrades and the area in and around it are a main target of the city's redevelopment efforts.
Drumm will make the decision alone and expects to have someone permanently in place by the end of May.