Top 40 Under 40: Colette Edmisten

Dec. 3, 2014


I was born the day after Christmas in Hammond, Indiana (during the peak of my Dad’s bowling league). I grew up as an only child in the far south suburbs of Chicago. I am a true White Sox fan (boo Cubs). I attended private Catholic school from kindergarten through senior year of high school. I studied Aviation Flight and Management at Southern Illinois University (Carbondale) and received my Private Pilot’s license at 19. I completed the SIU flight program; receiving my Commercial Pilot’s license with instrument and multi-engine ratings. I then went on to Central Missouri State University to complete my graduate degree in Aviation Safety. My first aviation job was with the Titusville-Cocoa Airport Authority in Florida, followed by the Glynn County Airport Commission in Georgia. Currently I work for the Savannah Airport Commission.

In 2008 at the AAAE-Southeast Chapter Conference I received my A.A.E. I believe in the AAAE accreditation program and continue to support the program by being a mentor for candidates in the Southeast Chapter. In 2009 I received the YWCA’s Tribute to Women Leaders – Outstanding Leadership in Community Award (Brunswick, GA). In 2010 I was asked to join the Georgia Airports Association Board of Directors. For term year 2013-2014 I was the GAA President. I was thrilled to announce last week at the GAA annual conference that Georgia Governor Nathan Deal proclaimed October 2014 Aviation Appreciation Month for our state.

My folks still live in Chicago so I go home to visit whenever I can. Traveling is an absolute adventure; I cannot explore the world enough. I enjoy reading, running, hiking, wine tasting and my German Shepard – Sierra Foxtrot (she is named after the aviation alphabet). I love my family and friends, music and NFL football! Go Cowboys!     

Top 40 Under 40 Questions        

1)      Why did you select aviation as a career?

Honestly, I believe Aviation selected me. In the 7th grade my family and I took a vacation to Colorado and while there toured the Air Force Academy. I wasn’t completely thrilled about it but the tour was conducted by a senior cadet who was graduating and leaving for flight school. I was so mesmerized by the cadet and the way he had this passion about aviation and flying planes, and then I saw the fighter jets, I just knew from that point on I was going to become a pilot and be in aviation. I have never wanted to be anything else or do anything else since then.

2)      What advice from a mentor helped you the most in your career?

Sometimes we as airport professionals are faced with debates and disputes that may not be pretty. I have been witness to such situations and I admire the professionalism displayed by a mentor of mine (calm and cool) in these heated situations. Whether it is with a passenger, a tenant, a pilot, the public or anyone else, he was always professional and kept a good attitude. It is human nature to react and to defend our position but I have learned that keeping it professional and keeping that good attitude will above all be the lasting impression.     

3)      What is the biggest challenge you see facing aviation today?

For a majority of airports, general aviation is the only business. We cannot forget about the guys and gals that fly these aircraft. As a pilot, general aviation has to become more affordable or this sector of aviation may go away or be only for the wealthy that can afford to own and/or operate aircraft. Along those lines, the small airports that support general aviation (strictly GA) cannot be forgotten about when it comes to state and federal funding. These airports are at times the lifeline, the economic engine for a community. These airports need support just as much as their commercial service brethren.     

4)      What advice would you give to others in the industry?

Take chances on the up and coming generations of hopeful airport executives. Give them the tools, the experiences and the exposure to become great leaders and executives of our industry. (I am fortunate to have experienced this). If good, motivated, and knowledgeable individuals are not given opportunities to succeed they will go places where they can – and we (the industry) may lose them, perhaps for good. 

5)      What are three things we don’t know about you?

  1. As a side gig, I want to be a music producer or DJ (in a city like Las Vegas).
  2. I love anything horror and scary – Halloween, haunted houses, movies, books, anything Stephen King, etc.
  3. Socks are my favorite article of clothing. I think socks show an individual’s personality.