By Chris Sasser
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
Confucius said “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” If that’s the case, Cherokee County Airport (KJSO) Manager Clint Goff is on a permanent vacation. Of course vacation hardly describes the amount of hard work and initiative Goff has displayed during his tenure, which was rewarded by winning the 2015 General Aviation Manager of the Year award at the 2015 Texas Aviation Conference.
Fresh out of high school, Goff began his career at the airport (located in a picturesque stretch of rolling hills and pine trees about six miles south of Jacksonville) by working part-time on the weekends fueling planes, washing windshields, sweeping floors and in his words “Whatever needed to be done and happy to do so!”
“From the age of six or so years old, I always had a fascination with airplanes,” explained Goff. “I knew, even at that age, that I wanted to do something in aviation. As I got older I started studying airplanes—really anything that I could get my hands on. My passion at that time was not fixed-based operator (FBO) operations; instead I wanted to learn to fly. I started taking flying lessons and it took me a few years to get my private pilot’s license in 2004.”
While learning to fly, Goff began working at the airport full-time and learned the ropes of airport operations under four different FBO operators. In 2007, Goff was hired by the county as part-time airport manager. During this time, he convinced the county to form an airport advisory board and made sure the members included appointees from local businesses, the president of the local economic development corporation, and airport tenants.
“The board was looking at ways to generate more revenue for the airport,” said Goff. “I recommended that the county take over FBO operations as I felt it would be the best way to grow the airport. It turned out to be a good time for the then-FBO operator to sell to Cherokee County. That was presented to the Commissioner’s Court and they approved the measure in 2009. At that point I took over full management of the airport and FBO operations.”
After taking over operations, Goff worked with the county to adopt airport rules, regulations, and minimum standards; buy out an outdated and unfavorable FBO lease; regain control of the airport terminal building; and encourage the county to use their non-primary entitlement funds to construct game fencing around the airport to keep out feral hogs and other wildlife. He also used RAMP grants to remove obstructions in the runway protection zones and easements to protect the airport approaches; repair and recalibrate the precision approach path indicators; repair fueling systems; crack seal the runway; prepare a hangar development plan; and work with the local TxDOT district for assistance with paving issues and installation of temporary access taxiways for hangar development.
Goff also places a high value on airport marketing by maintaining the airport’s modern and informative website (http://www.cherokeecountyairport.com/) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/cherokeecountyairport), which he uses to advertise fly-ins and other airport events to the community and beyond.
The payoff came at this year’s conference, and he was able to share the moment with his family.
“As the award presentation was being read, I started to think ‘hey, I’ve done some of these things,’” said Goff. “Then I looked at my wife and she had a big smile on her face and said that she wanted to be the first to congratulate me. It was quite a moment and definitely something that I’ll never forget.”