Mike Parks, Airport Manager, Columbia Regional Airport
My position requires daily oversight of operations, maintenance, public safety personnel, concessions, and one administration assistant. Our division falls under the city’s department of economic development; there are a total of 17 employees assigned to the airport in full-time positions and approximately seven part-time employees operating the concessions. Normal daily duties include the review of federal regulatory compliance, grant administration, capital improvement projects, and general operations.
Years lived in Columbia/Mid-Missouri:
Favorite volunteer/community activity:
I assist with the Cooper County 4-H Youth Fair. I enjoy watching my kids interact and grow with others through this process and see the rewards of their hard work at the fair.
I’ve been employed with the Columbia Regional Airport for nearly 16 years and with the City of Columbia for nearly 18 years. During this time, I’ve been in the positions of public safety supervisor and operations supervisor before becoming the airport manager.
Why I’m passionate about my job:
It’s very easy to stay engaged in my position — there are many moving parts to safely and efficiently operate an airport. It’s a great feeling going to work every day knowing that we’re making a positive impact on the Mid-Missouri economy, and I manage a great staff that truly cares about the current and future success of the airport. The city leadership’s support for the airport, along with the support from all of the Mid-Missouri area, is the reason for the continued success and growth of our commercial service.
Why I’m passionate about my company: I’ve always said that working for the City of Columbia is the best thing a person can ask for. The City of Columbia is a large employer, but there’s still a sense of caring from everyone. It’s like a large family. It takes a lot of people to make the airport operate smoothly and successfully. I wouldn’t be successful in my position without all of the great people on our “city team.”
What people should know about this profession:
My position at the airport has unique challenges that change daily. These challenges are what keep me motivated and engaged. I frequently speak to people in the terminal who are flying for various reasons — vacation, business, and personal — and they all have different needs. Being the manager at a regional airport requires many different hats to be worn, sometimes on an hourly basis. And my day doesn’t end at 5:00 — I remain in contact with all of the staff 24 hours a day, on weekends, and on holidays. I feel that being available to assist staff is one of the most important demands of my position.
My next professional goal:
My ultimate goal in this position is to continue finding additional ways to provide the best customer service experience possible for all of our passengers. I want to accomplish this by continuing to operate the airport safely, effectively, and efficiently as I take pride in what I do. I’ll continue the rest of my career until retirement with the City of Columbia as the airport manager.
The next challenge facing my industry:
I wish I knew ahead of time what the next challenge is going to be — that would be about as easy as picking the Powerball numbers. Challenges constantly change in the aviation industry. Things like regulations, fuel cost, and world events all impact the demand for air travel.
Biggest lesson learned in business:
The importance of helping people learn all of the great things to do in our community. Columbia and the surrounding areas offer so many benefits that we can showcase, which helps our local economy and makes people want to come back again. Treating people kindly and with respect gives them a positive experience and will help spread the message that Columbia and Mid-Missouri is a great place to live, work, learn, and play.
Information Columbia residents should know about COU:
It’s really important to me to maintain contact with all of the Mid-Missouri communities to ensure that they understand the great economic impact that the airport has on the area. I enjoy going to different neighborhood meetings and events to talk about the benefits of the airport and what they can expect when flying out of COU. Things that you’ll see at COU are benefits that you won’t see at larger airports. Our staff has provided air for flat tires, blown snow off of cars before arrivals, helped with jump-starts, helped carry bags, and, most recently, added signs to all handicapped parking with a phone number to call if they need additional assistance. The airport has grown, but we’ll always provide the best possible experience in and out of COU.
The people who have had the biggest impact on my life:
My parents, who taught me to be honest, respectful, kind, and proud in every aspect of my life. They instilled in me how to be a great parent and to work hard in achieving my goals. We’re still close: I call my mother every morning on my way to work, talking the entire way, and call my dad most afternoons, trying to solve the world’s problems. We haven’t quite fine-tuned a plan yet, but I think we’re getting there.
If I wasn’t doing this for a living, I would:
probably be a farmer. I came from a very small, rural farming town. (I graduated high school with only 11 people.) I grew up living in the country and working part-time on neighboring farms all summer long, operating machinery. I still have a strong connection to the farming community, even though most of the equipment now is not even close to similar to the old Farmalls and Case tractors that I operated.
What I do for fun:
My family and I enjoy camping, fishing, and kayaking. We spend several weekends a year camping alongside my parents in Missouri State Parks, sharing cooking duties, campfires, and great conversations. I probably should admit that this camping includes air-conditioned campers, but it’s the thought that counts!
The most important thing in my life is my family. My wife and I have been married for over 17 years. My daughters are growing quickly, so I try to spend time with them every chance I get.
Most people don’t know that:
I’m an adjunct instructor for the MU Fire Rescue Training Institute. I’ve traveled and instructed students at airports nationwide on operations and many other topics and continue this on a limited basis when my schedules allows. These engagements have helped me create professional contacts across the country, which I use to collect ideas that we’ve implemented here in Columbia to increase efficiency and safety.