County commissioners, the cities of Hiram and Dallas, and the Paulding Chamber of Commerce named members to two committees to study and possibly recommend changes to the county’s airport authority and industrial building authority. They then met in organizational meetings following a special called county commission meeting.
Dallas Mayor Boyd Austin told appointees that state law determines the compositions and duties of the boards “and can only be changed by law.”
“Any recommendation you make in that regard would have to be sent and subject to approval of the local legislative delegation to make those changes,” said Austin, who is a member of both authorities.
The two authorities came under fire after a company the airport panel hired to help recruit aerospace-related industries to the area announced in October it also was seeking a passenger airline to serve Paulding’s Silver Comet Field airport.
The building authority later loaned funding to the airport to add space to the runway area.
“We were asked to get the citizens’ input and this is what these committees are doing,” said county commission Chairman David Austin, brother of the Dallas mayor.
However, airport commercialization opponents responded angrily to the appointments during the meeting.
“You’ve loaded the tables here. You should be ashamed,” one angry audience member told the group, in reference to the appointments.
Commercialization opponent Sue Wilkins said her group was upset because few active members of the group opposing commercialization were included on the study committees.
The committees had been opponents’ suggested method for allowing residents, other than those who have typically served on county boards, to be involved in discussions on the future of the airport and building authorities, Wilkins said.
“They chose people that are extensions of themselves,” she said of the appointments.
The airport authority steering committee members include chairman-appointee Larry Reinhart, who operates a pro-commercialization Facebook page; Terry Tibbetts, representing Post 1; retired Lockheed manager John Dean, representing Post 2; Mark Caffery, representing Post 3; Dallas attorney Mike Mason, representing Post 4; retired Army Corps of Engineers employee Gary Mauldin, representing the city of Dallas; downtown Hiram retailer Gary Weekley, representing the city of Hiram; and paralegal Cecilia McMichen, representing the Paulding Chamber of Commerce.
The industrial building authority steering committee includes chairman-appointee Kenneth Byrd, a retired Fulton County firefighter; Mike Scott, Post 1; businessman Paul Callahan, Post 2; Hiram resident Matthew Pierce, Post 3; engineer Jerry Johnson, Post 4; Dallas representative Jerry Johnson, a Puckett EMS director; Hiram representative Peggy Howland, a retired businesswoman; and chamber representative Raymond Phillips.
Ken Thigpen, a former, longtime industrial building authority member, and Boyd Austin told the appointees about the history of the two authorities.
Boyd Austin, a lifelong resident and longtime Dallas mayor, said Paulding County grew from 14,000 residents in the 1960s when the building authority was formed, to 155,000 today.
“Maybe things that were applicable [in the 1960s] may need to be tweaked or changed for modern times,” he said.