Dec. 23--COLUMBUS -- When corporate executives and private pilots land in Columbus, their first impression of the city comes from the airport.
That's why maintaining a "good, friendly" appearance there is a top priority for Keith Schademann, who took over as Columbus Municipal Airport manager earlier this month.
Schademann, the airport's maintenance supervisor for three years before his promotion, replaces Mark Cozad as the head man at the city's aviation hub.
Although three decades separated the two in age, Schademann's vision for the airport would build upon a foundation Cozad created during his three years here.
"I'd like to promote the airport and facility and keep improving the grounds and overall appearance," said Schademann, who almost missed his opportunity to take the airport manager position after Cozad left in July for a job with the Federal Aviation Administration in Kansas City, Mo.
Schademann, 60, said he didn't immediately apply for the position because he thought city officials would look for a candidate with a more extensive aviation background, particularly on the administrative side.
And they did.
The city hired Ross Wheeler, a Sioux Falls, S.D., native with a degree in aviation/aerospace from the University of North Dakota and experience working as a dispatcher.
However, the newlywed backed out of the Columbus job after returning from his honeymoon.
This reopened the door for Schademann, whose role as interim airport manager showed he was qualified for the position full-time.
"I think the longer he worked at this, the more we saw that he is an excellent manager," said Columbus Human Resources Director Mike Oglevie, who called Schademann "very intelligent" and "detail-oriented."
Schademann has lived in Columbus for 23 years and worked for Mid-Nebraska Communications Inc. before taking the airport maintenance position. He and his wife Judy have four grown children.
The airport underwent several major changes while Schademann worked alongside Cozad.
The annual Columbus Days fly-in breakfast was reinstated during Cozad's time here and events such as the Wings of Freedom Tour and 2012 Air Race Classic made stops at the airport.
Like Cozad, Schademann said he plans to host events and activities that get the community involved and show Columbus residents how the airport supports the city.
About 50 aircraft -- from Cessnas to crop sprayers and corporate planes owned by Nebraska Public Power District and Behlen Mfg. Co. -- are currently based at Columbus Municipal Airport, which handles approximately 15,000 operations each year, a number that totals takeoffs and landings.
A 20-year master plan developed under Cozad's watch outlines more than $20 million in potential projects at the airport and Schademann has already identified a few as priorities.
These projects include constructing a building to store snow-removal and maintenance equipment, installing new perimeter fencing and tearing down an old A-frame building that's become an "eyesore."
Schademann would also like to build a new terminal building and add more hangars, but he said most of these projects can't move forward until more FAA funding is available.
"That's one of the things a lot of people would like to see," he said of the hangar plan.
In the short-term, the city must hire an employee to fill the maintenance supervisor position vacated by Schademann, since the airport is run by just two employees.
Copyright 2013 - Columbus Telegram, Neb.
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