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Hernando County airport director resigns

Robert J. Mattingly, whose last day on the job will be Feb. 14, leaves for a position at the Sarasota airport.

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 4, 2003

The Hernando County airport director tendered his resignation last week, ending a seven-year tenure marked by both growth and some controversy at the airport.

Robert J. Mattingly of Spring Hill is resigning to take a job as director of operations for the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority, which manages Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.

His last day of work is Feb. 14.

County Planning Director Larry Jennings, who received Mattingly's resignation, said his departure was unexpected, although Jennings knew Mattingly was in discussions with the Sarasota airport.

Mattingly said he decided to take the new position to advance his career. And he also appreciated the new position's benefits. The Sarasota airport is much larger than Hernando County's and is served by six major air carriers and three commuter airlines, all of which provide passenger service.

Mattingly, 56, leaves on good terms, he said.

"I've done my best to plan, direct and expand this particular airport, and I think it's very honestly evident in all that's taken place over the years," he said.

In the past seven years, the airport and its industrial park have grown.

The industrial park's buildings are nearly full. Two new hangars opened in November for private airplanes, more than half of which are filled.

About five years ago, the airport started building the infrastructure for a 250-acre Corporate AirPark. The streets, water and sewerage are all in, but buildings are not. Five of 23 lots have been taken. A 60-acre Airport RailPark is also under construction, a $2.1-million project to connect the property via a CSX trunk line to the Port of Tampa.

Under Mattingly's watch, the county secured a deal to host the Family Motor Coach Association's rally at the airport, which is going on now, and brings several thousand tourists into the county each February for about a week.

The airport is also now home to some of the Florida National Guard, who moved there from Lakeland last year, using three airport hangars and employing about 40.

However, Mattingly's tenure was not entirely smooth.

Two years after he was hired, Mattingly nearly lost his job.

He was suspended five days in January 1998 for violating two Hernando County purchasing policies and then for giving misleading and evasive answers to cover it up.

He was also criticized later that year in an internal audit that found the airport operations were not as cost-effective as they could be. A followup audit in December 1998 found some problems had yet to be corrected.

Former airport authority member Gary Schraut said people didn't always agree with Mattingly, but Mattingly worked hard and did a good job.

"Bob has done an awful lot of good things at the airport," said Schraut, who served on the authority from 1991 to 2002. "There were times we disagreed, but there's an awful lot of times when we did agree."

Before working in Hernando County, Mattingly was the assistant airport director at the Sanford Airport Authority. He also spent 12 years at Tampa International Airport.

Mattingly will take vacation after his last day of work, continuing to receive part of his $65,416 salary and 25 percent of his sick leave until Feb. 28.

-- Jennifer Liberto covers business and development in Hernando County and can be reached at 848-1434 or .

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