For 13 years, Don Silvernell has made the daily commute from his Palm Harbor home to his office at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.
He leaves at 5 a.m. to make the 44-mile, one-way commute.
His wife is a teacher in Pinellas County and he made a deal with his wife when they moved there he would make the drive so she could be close to work and family.
But starting July 1, those commutes will come to an end and so is Silvernell’s tenure as airport manager.
Silvernell and his wife are retiring from their respective jobs and moving to Boise, Idaho to be close to their 7-month-old granddaughter.
“It’s all about family,” Silvernell said.
Thirteen years ago, the county hired Silvernell as deputy director at the then-named Hernando County Airport.
Less than a year later, he became manager and has seen an expansion of tenants, revenue, the addition of more hangars and tenants and the fruition of a long-time dream in the opening of the control tower.
“I am very proud of the staff that works with me here,” Silvernell said. “We’ve accomplished a lot in the 13 years I’ve been here.”
Revenues, he said, have more than tripled during that time. The airport is self-sufficient and no money is taken from the general fund to support it. The money that comes from airport revenue stays there and helps pay for maintenance and upkeep.
“I’m leaving it in good financial shape,” Silvernell said.
Silvernell told Business Development Director Mike McHugh he would be available to help his replacement settle in before leaving.
Located on 2,400 sprawling acres, the airport has become the economic engine for Hernando County, Silvernell said. It includes not only the airport, but the RailPark, Corporate Airpark, AirPark Northeast, and the Industrial Park proper.
Aviation Authority Chairman Gary Schraut credits Silvernell’s excellent working relationship with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for securing money and grants for various airport projects.
For example, the $2.25 million control tower project was funded jointly by FDOT and airport reserve funds.
Schraut said Silvernell brought a wealth of private sector experience when he was hired and he is respected by his peers throughout Florida.
He leaves the airport at a time when “nothing has to be fixed or repaired.”
“I think the ship is in good shape,” Schraut said. “I think whoever we bring on board to be the new captain will be more than able to move us forward in the direction we need to be going.”
The county’s human resource department will handle the hiring process. Silvernell said he may be involved in recommendations. He doesn’t foresee anyone in-house stepping into his shoes because of the qualifications needed to become manager.
Brian Hunter, assistant aviation administrator for FDOT District 7, said he is impressed with the variety of aircraft and tenants at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport, one of 12 general aviation airports under his supervision.
“I think it’s a tribute to the amount of work that Don has put in,” Hunter said.
Hunter said Silvernell was a member of a key state committee on aviation and he was a good partner with FDOT.
“Don has always been an advocate for aviation in the Hernando County region and throughout the state,” he said.
Business Development Director Mike McHugh said he is working on an up-to-date job description and information packet on the airport. He will post the position and begin the recruitment process immediately.
“We’re going to miss him,” McHugh said. “He’s been an incredible contributor to our success.”