A six-candidate field makes for heavy traffic circling two seats on the Monterey Peninsula Airport District board of directors.
At least one new director will be chosen in November by district voters to succeed current board member Ron Phoebus, who isn't seeking re-election. The candidate field includes one appointed board member, Bob De Voe, who is seeking a first-time election victory.
Virtually all the candidates say they want to keep the airport flying right because of its importance to the local tourism industry. And they say they would like to see fares for flights to and from Monterey closer to the lower fares travelers generally pay when using Bay Area airports.
Another goal shared by candidates is to make certain the airport remains a good neighbor by controlling noise from takeoffs and landings.
Though the skies are crowded in the race, they are friendly. None of the candidates voiced criticism of the way the airport is being run or took any shots at others in the race.
The six candidates are travel agent Dan Presser, hotel manager Bob DeVoe, Pacific Grove Police Chief Carl Miller, software engineer Jay Roland, peace officer William Sullivan and commercial aviator Bill Sabo.
Presser says he has two main reasons for running. He wants the airport operated in a way to reduce noise on neighboring residents. "There is a lot of noise pollution on the Monterey Peninsula," he said.
And he believes air fares for flying in and out of Monterey on commercial flights should be closer to fares at bigger airports in San Jose and the San Francisco Bay Area.
"The majority of the people who use the Monterey airport are passengers," he said. "Nobody has really represented them like I can, because I know the business of travel."
Like other candidates, Presser refrained from taking digs at the current airport board or management. But he says he's been told there is a lack of communication between airport directors and airport tenants.
"I have walked the airport (terminal)... and talked to some people," he said. "I walk and I listen."
Miller, who is retiring in October after 30 years with Pacific Grove police, says his background in security, traffic management and dealing with the public would be strong assets on the airport board.
"I'm not coming with an agenda -- that's for sure," Miller said.
Miller says he is "sensitive" to ongoing complaints about airport noise, but he says he admires the way the airport "is being run like a business. That's the way it should be."
He says running the airport requires balancing the interests of commercial airlines, private pilots and businesses at the airport. "I would like to see the airport become a little more modern," he said.
Miller also says he would support new hangar space and development of more light-industrial, aviation-related businesses at the airport.
Roland says his computer software company uses the Monterey airport frequently for employee and customer travel. For that reason, he wants the airport "to be as good a location as possible."
He says his technical and business backgrounds, not to mention a 25-year Air Force career, would be valuable additions to the airport board.
Roland declined comment on current airport leadership, saying he would want to join the board with "a clean slate."
"I think I can be helpful to the board and the airport and, in general, stand up and be counted," Roland said.
Roland says he supports improvements to the airport terminal and the addition of hangars. Though he is a private pilot who keeps his plane at the airport, Roland says he mainly flies for business and doesn't socialize much with other pilots.
DeVoe was appointed to the airport board after former director Nancy Foy, another advocate for the Peninsula's hospitality industry, resigned in March 2005.
A manager of one of the Peninsula's biggest hotels, DeVoe says his primary interest in running for a full, four-year board term is "to retain the airline service we have and, of course, to expand the airline service."
DeVoe says the local hospitality industry loses some group business -- conferences, industry meetings and the like -- because organizers view the area as being somewhat inaccessible because of limited airline service.
"Retaining what we have is as important as expanding service," he said. The airport district should constantly be soliciting airlines and local travelers to use the Monterey airport, he says.
"I like the feel of our airport. It is a small, hometown airport. I want to retain that feeling. I'm not trying to create a San Jose International Airport," DeVoe said.
Sabo, who flew combat planes in the Vietnam War, believes the airport is being managed efficiently.
But he says there must be more active outreach to two of the airport's primary clients -- business tenants and general aviation fliers. "I don't know how often they actively solicit (their) input," he said.
Sabo says he would be an independent board member, who would seek to represent all airport users -- from traveling customers to business tenants.
A former transportation consultant, Sabo says he isn't interested in using the airport board as a runway for a political career. "I'm not a political animal, but I understand politics," he said.
Like other candidates, Sabo also says the airport needs to control noisy operations. "People who live nearby have to be served well," he said.
Sullivan, a former Army helicopter pilot, says he would bring "a fresh set of eyes" to the airport board.
"If any organization is more than three years old," he said, it probably needs some new oversight.
Sullivan says there are no specific airport issues on which he would focus. He says he would examine "the whole scene."
Like other novice candidates, this is Sullivan's first bid for public office. He said curiosity about the airport was a major factor in deciding to run, along with complaints from friends about the higher cost of flying out of Monterey compared to bigger airports in the region.
"Is it valid?" he said. "I don't know... There's definitely a perception it's cheaper to fly up north. (We) are going to need better service."
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