After Atmore City Council members quickly disposed of the two business items on their April 9 meeting agenda, they took a brief moment to honor an individual who had been a fixture at the local airport for more than four decades.
Freddie McCall Jr., who now manages the local aerodrome, presented a plaque of appreciation to Mickey Parker, who began his acquaintance with the local flight facility in 1973 and ended it with his retirement on December 31, 2017.
Parker, a crop duster for 25 years, gained a reputation as a kind and generous man who worked his way up the airport ladder to the top spot.
“It’s a long way from a tail-dragger to airport manager,” Mayor Jim Staff commented after Parker took possession of the plaque.
Parker’s crop-dusting business was based at the local airport. He said after the meeting that his interest in the facility grew until it was almost a given that he would continue there in some capacity when he dumped his last load of pesticide or fertilizer on a local crop.
“I started out there in 1973, washing airplanes, gassing them up, things like that,” Parker recalled. “I spent a lot of interesting years out there, made a lot of memories and met a lot of interesting people.”
Staff, who was an aviator for several years before deciding to plant his feet on the ground for good, said Parker, who took over as airport manager in 2008, could handle a plane better than anyone he ever saw.
“He was one of the oldest living crop dusters, and he could land an airplane, swing it around and back it into the hangar like there was nothing to it,” the mayor said.
Staff also praised Parker’s administrative capabilities and pointed out that he was always willing to assist a fellow pilot who was having problems.
“He was good at what he did; he was a great administrator for the airport,” said the mayor. “He did a lot of free work for folks out there. He would even loan them his personal car if they needed to go somewhere and didn’t have a way to go. He built a good reputation as a helpful person.”
The former airport manager, who logged 14,000 hours in the sky during his 28-year tenure as a pilot, said he knew when it was time to hang up his flight gear.
“I missed it for a few years, but I just kind of blocked it out of my mind,” he said. “There were other opportunities to fly, but I just told myself that I’m through with it. At first I thought I might try just one more year, but I saw a little light at the end of the tunnel and said, ‘this is it’.”
In other business, council members voted 4-0 (District 4’s Susan Smith was out of town and did not attend the meeting) to designate District 3 Councilman Chris Walker as the city’s voting delegate for matters involving the Alabama Municipal Insurance Corporation, and heard a brief presentation from Paul Chason, CEO of Atmore Area YMCA, about the April 21 Healthy Kids Day event at the Y.