INDEPENDENCE — The Independence Municipal Airport manager said personal attacks by some airport users drove him to leave for another community.
Jonathan Walter, who’s run the airport since 2012 and operates Walter Aviation Inc., asked the City Council to cancel his contracts to both manage the facility and serve as a fixed-base operator effective Sept. 30.
While declining to go into great detail, Walter said he, his family and employees have endured harassment and attempts to undermine his operation of the airport for several years.
“We’ve been managing another airport down in Perry, Iowa,” he said. “As a result of all the things that have been happening, we are moving everything down there.”
Council members voted unanimously July 24 to accept Walter’s request to cancel his contracts, with several members voicing disappointment with the decision and criticizing those who drove him to leave.
“I’ve watched just stuff that was ridiculous to do to somebody,” said Councilman Mike Lenius. “There’s a handful of people that know that they were part of it, and I hope you’re proud of what you’ve done.”
Councilman Bob Hill said he accepted Walter’s request “with a heavy heart.”
“Personally I think Jonathan has done a good job out there,” Hill said. “For him and for his family, they have put up with personal commentary long enough. He’s going to be an asset to another community, a loss for us.”
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Mayor Bonita Davis said Walter “should be very proud of the job he’s done.”
Walter was an Independence High School graduate who had started two businesses by his mid-20s, including Walter Aviation, which provided flight lessons, a full-service maintenance shop, 24-hour full-serve fuel, aerial photography, agricultural surveying and scenic air tours.
His mother, Lisa, addressed council members before the July 24 vote.
“He was undermined in many ways for no reason, and this affects more than just Jonathan, the comments that people say and the actions,” she said. “Jonathan is asking to leave Independence not because he has done anything wrong, but we’ve had enough.”
City Manager Al Roder said a council committee has recommended creating a citizen task force to “really evaluate what is the next best step for the airport.”
That committee would look at whether the city should find a new contract manager, hire a city employ to manage the facility, create an airport commission or explore other options.
“Everything’s on the table at this point as far as where we go with this,” Roder said. “The primary focus is let’s just make sure we do the right thing for the airport and for the city.”