Richard Carter tapped to head Lanett airport

Published 2:14 pm Wednesday, October 19, 2022

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LANETT — Richard Carter has been named manager of the Lanett Municipal Airport. Mayor Jamie Heard made the announcement at the Monday meeting of the Lanett City Council.

“We feel like he’s the best person for the job,” Heard said. “He is very knowledgeable about aviation and has lots of experience in flying planes and helicopters. We feel like he is the right fit for this new position.”

Carter will be heading a new department in city government and will have an office in the airport terminal.

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He is currently the chief deputy of the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office and is in his 33rd year in local law enforcement. He served in police departments in Lanett and Valley before going to the sheriff’s office in 2007. He started out and an investigator with the CCSO and moved up to chief deputy a year-and-a-half later when then-Chief Deputy Tommy Weldon left the sheriff’s department to become chief of the Valley Police Department.

A licensed pilot with much flying experience, Carter led the CCSO’s effort to have an aviation program. They got their first plane from Etowah County at a bargain price of $18,000. The plane served the department well, and they later sold it for $23,000. The CCSO has since had the use of a military surplus helicopter in its aviation program. It has been a great tool in aerial searches. The helicopter is based at the Lanett airport. The CCSO’s aviation program has been funded by forfeitures and proceeds from the annual sheriff’s rodeo.

Carter is a graduate of Chambers Academy and has deep roots in Chambers County. His grandparents were from Shawmut.

When contacted, Carter noted his excitement for the new position and noted how it will be a new experience for him as he retires from the sheriff’s department on Oct 31. 

“I see this opportunity as a way for me to use my passion for aviation in a way where I can meaningfully serve the community outside of law enforcement,” Carter said. “There is a lot of nervous excitement for me; I have been in law enforcement for 32 years, and it has become my comfort zone. I know this new role is going to be challenging, but I am excited to see what happens.”

Additionally, Carter said that he hopes that he will be able to make a positive impact on the airport and community as he takes on the role.

“There are a lot of ways that the airport can serve the industry here, and I really want to build the airport up, so that it can be more of an asset to the community,” Carter said. “There are a lot of other airports that are bigger with more money, but I think our airport has the potential to be great. I want the Lanett Airport to be known as the friendliest airport in all of Alabama.”

Carter was a candidate for sheriff in the Republican primary in May and was defeated by Jeff Nelson. Nelson advanced to face Democrat Jeff Blackstone in the November general election. The winner of that race will succeed the county’s long-time sheriff, Sid Lockhart, in January.

City officials see the airport manager hire as key to making the Lanett Municipal Airport reach its full potential. More than $15 million has been spent three in recent years to lengthen the runway from 3,150 feet to 5,400 feet and to build a new terminal. The next step it to build hangars for private planes and lease them out. Tie-down space can also be leased. The city can generate income from such leases and from the sale of aviation fuel.

In addition to the airport manager, the city also needs to contract with a fixed base operator (FBO) for the day-to-day operations at the airport.