formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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June 23, 2015 City of Liberty Airport Manager moving to Panama (Feature article)

The Liberty Gazette
June 23, 2015

by Linda Street-Ely

Two of Liberty’s most gifted community leaders, airport manager Jose Doblado and his wife Debbie Mabery, have said their good-byes and headed south, to their new home in Panama. Jose’s shoes will be big ones to fill, as evidenced by his loyal service to Liberty, and recognized by many for his dedication, including Texas Southern University, College of Science, which awarded Mr. Doblado this year with the Distinguished Alumni Award.

In early 2012, Jose Doblado, then a new graduate from TSU’s Aviation Management degree program, accepted the position as the new airport manager for the Liberty Municipal Airport. His goal was to revitalize and upgrade the 140-acre Liberty Municipal Airport, a goal shared by the Texas Department of Transportation, which holds the purse strings for all aviation grant funding on both the state and federal levels.

A few accomplishments.
As manager, Jose oversaw the $700,000 construction project of twenty T-hangars, several ramp improvements, security fencing, and terminal updates. He also refurbished two 12,000-gallon fuel systems purchased for the airport. Now, as a result of Jose’s work, income from hangar rent and one of the ground leases should be $241,200 per year when all hangars are occupied, plus the income from another land lease on a privately owned hangar. That’s a staggeringly successful jump from the receivable $7,920 of just three years ago. Under Jose’s management, average monthly fuel sales increased from $5,200 to $17,000, another testament to his hard work.

Services available, number and quality of hangars, and the number of take-offs and landings at any given airport in Texas are some of the important measurements used by the TxDOT in awarding grant funding. That’s why the building and renovating, the fuel tanks, the numbers, are all significant. During the past three years, Jose has nearly tripled the number of based aircraft, from nine to thirty-four, and increased airport traffic by providing clean, safe facilities and personal service.

Not all municipal airports can claim the level of expertise which Liberty has received from Mr. Doblado, who minimized airport expenditures by completing most maintenance work on fuel systems, facilities, and equipment himself, and using the services of city employees instead of outside contractors, saving city taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. Volunteers have been eager to step in and help, too, thanks, they say, to the friendly and welcoming nature of the man who came to help make things better for everyone.

Building an image.
Visiting pilots and based pilots alike have raved about the level of customer service and attention to the airport since Mr. Doblado came to Liberty – people have come here for a reason, and that reason is Jose. As manager, he has hosted fly-in events and children’s tours and mentored three Texas Southern University seniors who completed their aviation degree program internships at the airport.

Repeat customers have been coming from all over the country to buy fuel here – meaning they spend money in Liberty, contribute to the local economy, and do not require any on-going services such as schools, hospital, or library. They land, hand over money, and then leave. And for the last three years they have received a warm welcome as they entered Liberty’s front door to the world.

National recognition.
His efforts have been recognized across the state, and nationally, as well wishes poured in from all over. William Gunn, who worked with Jose to complete an airspace study for an existing hangar on the airport, commented that, "On a site visit to Liberty, it was a pleasure to meet Jose and his wife. The service I received to fuel my aircraft and use the terminal building for my short visit was excellent; it was obvious Jose was proud of his position and was willing to assist in any way."

As a member of the TxDOT Aviation Division, Mr. Gunn says he is "lucky to visit many of the general aviation airports in Texas. Liberty certainly stands out as one of the excellent ones in the state thanks to Jose’s dedication. Any pilot who looks at the comments placed on the web site will see the exceptional number of positive statements made about Liberty and the service Jose has provided. I am sorry to see the Liberty airport lose his services but wish him and his family well."

Yasmina Platt, of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the largest aviation organization in the world, offered her thoughts as well. "Jose has done an great job with the Liberty Municipal Airport in such a short period of time, and with relatively few resources. He will be an important asset wherever he goes, and the aviation industry is fortunate to have him as a friend and supporter. We hope Liberty will continue the momentum Jose brought to the airport."

The locals who have found a good friend in Mr. Doblado say that in the relatively short time he’s been in Liberty he developed positive relationships in the aviation community and improved the image of airport on a nationwide scale by promoting safety and providing consistent and friendly customer service to all.

Getting personal.
Jose and Debbie even furnished the city’s airport terminal building at their own expense, so that Liberty could have the best possible facilities to offer visitors to our city. It’s been important to the couple to represent their hometown to visitors and neighbors alike in the most friendly and professional manner. As Debbie reflects, "I have really enjoyed volunteering for the past three years at the airport. You never know what the wind will blow in each day. However, the best part has been the people of Liberty. I have met so many kind, interesting and helpful people. The conversations I have had and the people I have met will always be a part of me. I will miss this special place."

For Jose, each day here in Liberty has been filled with unexpected challenges, interesting people, and rewarding moments, and that, he says, is why he enjoys his work. "The hours have been long and the work has been nonstop, but it is all worth it when I see multiple aircraft operating at the same time safely on the field."

He paused to reflect on the day they first saw the airport, and explained that, "Improving the image of Liberty Municipal Airport has brought me great satisfaction because I knew I was adding value to the City of Liberty and Liberty County."

The couple has moved to Panama, in Central America, but before their good-byes, Debbie expressed their hopes and dreams, not only for themselves, but for Liberty as well. "Jose and I want to be closer to his son and start a new adventure in our life. Jose will probably continue his career in aviation at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City. I plan to volunteer and write. As for the Liberty airport, it is like our baby, and we hope and pray the next person has even greater passion for this place, and these people, and continues to make great improvements."

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