By Rick Davenport
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
Rich with history, the Draughon-Miller Central Texas Regional Airport (KTPL) has grown at a slow, but steady pace. This spring, in the most ambitious effort in its history, an $8 million renovation project will be completed.
For the old timers, that sounds like a lot of money especially considering the city acquired the land (about 1,000 acres) from the federal government for just $1 after World War II. (The airport was renamed in honor of the first two Bell County casualties of the war, pilots Miller Draughon and Raymond Miller.)
“The airport is really critical to our economic development,” Temple City Manager David Blackburn explains. “We’ve invested in the airport and made it a focus of the city’s strategic efforts. Our lease rates are very competitive and we have some great corporate tenants.”
Most of that renovation project funding will go toward runway reconstruction, but there are numerous other needs, including taxiway rehabilitation, concrete ramps and back-up generators for the fuel farm, airfield lighting and the operations building. Additionally, the city will improve the parking lot lighting, update airport signage and landscape the entrance.
“Our main business is corporate jets, general aviation and military aircraft. Not only do we want to make sure they have a great facility, we want to make sure we are open for business when the weather turns bad,” Airport Manager Sharon Rostovich said.
For her, the airport project is the culmination of a 27 year-long love affair with the Temple municipal airport.
It began in 1986, when Rostovich was hired as the secretary for the then-airport manager. After serving in that capacity for several other managers through 1997, the straight-shooting Rostovich became the boss.
“I think I got the job by default,” she says. “I guess the city figured I had been here long enough to run things.”
Born and raised in Temple (and after 11 years of learning the ropes), Rostovich was the local girl who got the job, though not a pilot and, in fact, had never been on a plane. At times, though, she says it was a challenge.
“There was no big announcement, no hoopla. At the time, there were only a handful of women heading up municipal airports in the state. I think some of our customers and even some tenants did not know how to react. There was certainly a good-ole-boy network in place. But through the years, I’ve been able to get things done, and have always had the backing of city leaders,” she said.
She says the airport has survived and prospered thanks to conservative budget projections, a diverse area economy, Texas Department of Transportation and other funding opportunities, and the city’s emphasis on creating a first-class facility.
Those tenants and other airport users include the McLane Company, Wilsonart, Scott & White Hospital, area law enforcement, Fort Hood and even helicopters hired by area ranchers to shoot feral hogs invading Central Texas.
For more information about the Draughon-Miller Central Texas Regional Airport, visit their website at http://www.draughonmiller.com/default.htm.
“I have seen a lot of changes to the airport in the last 27 years,” said Rostovich, who plans to retire when she reaches 30 years of employment. “With all the improvements that have taken place, whoever becomes the next airport manager will have a great starting point.”