PUNTA GORDA — Another candidate is seeking a seat on the Charlotte County Airport Authority.

Bob Starr, a former Charlotte County commissioner and former member and chair of the Charlotte County Republican Executive Committee, filed to run for the board’s District 1 seat this month.

“I was getting ready to retire,” said Starr, “but something has to be done at the airport and we need somebody who has an aggressive personality and understands how business works.”

The seat is currently held by the board’s chair, Pam Seay, who has held the District 1 seat since 1996.

Seay announced in March that she would not be running for re-election, endorsing Republican candidate Vanessa Oliver.

“Both Bob and I have had our time in this county. It is now time to hand the reins to someone new,” Seay said. “She is the kind of fresh outlook we need at the airport.”

Starr agreed that the airport needs a new energy and fresh ideas. “I have many years of business management experience with very large organizations,” he said. “I have new ideas for airport operations plus the experience and energy to make them happen.”

“Unlike my opponent I do not have another job and can devote the necessary time to the Airport Commissioner position,” he continued. “I see a need for change and improvement at one of Charlotte County’s premier assets. I am the man to facilitate those improvements for the direct benefit of Charlotte County residents.”

Incumbents Paul Andrews of District 3 and James Herston of District 5 have refiled for their seats, and are currently running unopposed. Andrews has served since 2012, Herston since 2008. Airport Authority commissioners serve for four years with an annual salary of $7,500.

Here is what you need to know about each of the candidates:

Bob Starr

What he wants to accomplish: If elected, Starr hopes to make recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration to lessen noise from current flight patterns impacting East Charlotte County. He also hopes to get Allegiant Air, the sole airline of Punta Gorda Airport, to contribute more.

“Allegiant has brought a lot of planes and a lot of people, but they also bring a lot of problems, too,” he said. “This is a Charlotte County asset and we should be able to control what goes on there.”

And though no local taxpayer money goes toward PGD, Starr doesn’t approve how much state and federal funding, mostly through Federal Aviation Administration and Florida Department of Transportation grants and funds, the airport receives. He would like to improve the revenue stream by attracting new businesses and also wants to give more attention to the airport’s general aviation community.

“They get kind of put on the back burner,” he said.

Why he’s running: “I’m a fiscal conservative,” Starr said. “I was getting ready to retire, but something has to be done at the airport and we need somebody who has an aggressive personality and understands how business works.”

Experience: Republican Party state committeeman for Charlotte County; served on Charlotte County Commission from 2008-2012; former member of Charlotte County Republican Executive Committee for 25 years and was chairman for eight years; 27 years in sales management with Procter and Gamble Company.

Vanessa Oliver

What she wants to accomplish: If elected, Oliver wants to help PGD navigate the current disruption to commercial air travel caused by COVID-19, as well as maintain a conservative budget and work with the airport’s tenants to make sure operations remain stable.

“Once the pandemic is under control, I think our residents will be anxious to reunite with their out-of-state friends and family and will be looking for PGD to increase the number of destinations available,” Oliver said. “Ideally, over the next few years I would like to attract additional airlines to the airport. Our current low-cost model has been very successful thus far, and I think it sets us apart from other airports in our region.”

Oliver also would want to work with the county’s Economic Development Office to attract additional businesses to the airport park.

“This will add to the economic stability of our county and expand our tax base so that residents are not disproportionately impacted,” Oliver said.

She also wants to continue working with the school board to train students, adding to the county’s workforce and bring more business to the area.

Why she’s running: ”I want to build upon our current success so our residents continue to have the opportunity to conveniently travel from their backyard. I also want to bring high-wage, stable jobs to Charlotte County. This pandemic, as well as the BP oil spill and red tide, have highlighted how dependent our community’s economy is on tourism. In order for our community to thrive, we have to diversify our economy ... The (airport park) is the perfect area to attract new businesses and help our current businesses expand. I want to create a climate that is welcoming to these economic opportunities that will bring prosperity to our residents.”

Experience: Chief Administrative Officer for Ambitrans Ambulance; Board of Directors for the United Way of Charlotte County; member and past chair of the Charlotte Harbor Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Committee; member and past president of the Peace River Federated Republican Women’s Forum; Board of Directors for the Economic Development Partnership; appointed to serve on the Florida Board of Funeral, Cemetery and Consumer Services in 2014.


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