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Board picks new airport manager
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MONROE - In its annual manager appointment, the Airport Board of Management hired Rob Driver, who currently serves as Monroe Municipal Airport supervisor through a contract with his company Touch & Go Aviation Inc., to take over the position.

The change removed City Administrator Phil Rath from the position he has held since 2011. During his tenure, Rath updated systems for licensing and leases. He voiced issue with the decision during Wednesday's meeting.

"I think there's a benefit to having a differentiation between the manager and supervisor," Rath said. "I can see the benefit of city involvement because, for instance, the city just hired two new employees for out here. It's not necessarily a problem in this case, but that doesn't mean it couldn't cause an issue 10 years from now."

Concerns have risen among Monroe Common Council members despite city confidence in Driver to perform his job well. Their issues are mainly about allowing full command over city employees to a person who is not a city employee.

In meetings dating to October discussing Driver's pay increase with his additional title to $50,000 from $45,000 annually, some aldermen voiced issue with the lack of city oversight. Brooke Bauman spoke out initially, criticizing the decision to increase pay for a job Rath was performing unpaid. She voiced concerns over whether the city should remove its direct oversight of the facility. On Jan. 3, council removed the requirement that the city mayor serve as an ex officio member of the Airport Board of Management.

At the time, alderwoman Chris Beer agreed with Rath when he noted that the mayor would not need to be involved but felt someone with the city should have involvement on the board as an advisory member.

"We should have more input there," she said.

Tom Miller, who serves as chair of the airport board, said the pay increase was still saving the city money because hiring an outside manager could cost Monroe roughly $100,000 in salary and benefits. During the meeting Wednesday, Miller began talks by pointing out the difference in opinion and announcing that the board needed to make a decision.

"This has been discussed quite a bit in the past, and we've had some people who want to keep it within the city process and some not," Miller said.

While Rath saw no reason for the mayor to have to serve solely as an advisory member of the board, he did say he thought someone connecting city staff to the airport board aside from Miller and Ron Marsh would be beneficial in the oversight of city employees working at the facility.

"I would rather have someone on board who knows what goes on around here daily and reports to the board efficiently," Marsh said. "That's why I nominate Rob Driver (for manager.)"

Driver said he did not want to call council concerns "baseless" but that people are "worried about things they don't have to worry about." Driver assured board members and Rath that any issue which may arise would be relayed back to Rath.

After hearing a list read aloud of the duties of manager, board member Clarence Peters said choosing Driver for the position was obvious.

"He already does all of that," Peters said. "This is just recognizing the reality of the last 20 years."