City Manager’s Comments – Nate Coyle

By Dale Martin, City Manager

Next week, the city will lose one of its most professional and personable senior directors: Mr. Nathan Coyle, Airport Director, will be leaving the city to pursue a different professional opportunity. He will be greatly missed for many reasons.

Mr. Coyle was one of the first city directors that I had the privilege to hire for the city (Mr. Andre Desilet, currently utilities director was the first such hire). Actually, Mr. Coyle was the second airport director that I hired following the dismissal of his predecessor during her probationary period. He has obviously worked out much better.

Mr. Coyle, a native of Pennsylvania and graduate of Penn State University, is an Air Force veteran, serving at several duty stations throughout the nation and around the globe, including combat service at Joint Base Balad (Iraq; 2009-2010) and Kabul International Airport (Afghanistan; 2011). In those overseas assignments, he managed dozens of diverse organizations, hundreds of personnel, thousands of aircraft, and nearly a million square miles of airspace (for both combat and civilian aircraft). Additionally, he is a credentialed airport certified employee by the American Association of Airport Executives and a Federal Aviation Agency control tower operator certificate holder. He was an unimpeachable candidate for the vacant position as the city’s airport director.

In his 2017 cover letter, he indicated that his greatest strengths were an ability to provide strong leadership to large multifaceted aviation-based organizations; a significant level of experience acting as the representative of airfield and air traffic control organizations by establishing strong networks with senior international, national, state, and local levels of government; and a strong knowledge of governmental budgeting demonstrated through experience as both a city and an airport manager in other communities. His assessment of his strengths was “spot-on.” It was a no-brainer decision to extend an offer to him. He began his tenure with the city on Aug. 15, 2017 (at a salary that represented a remarkable reduction).

He brought an unprecedented level of professionalism and experience to the airport at a time when the city was making significant investment in the airport with the selection of a fixed-base operator (in general, the provider of services at the airport) and the construction of a new terminal facility. His extensive familiarity with airport operations and regulations earned him immediate and valuable credibility among airport tenants. He instantly gained the respect of his peer directors – relatively soft-spoken but concise in his delivery, creative but conservative in his thinking, and well-prepared and direct in his presentation.

I leaned on Nate professionally during my early years here in Fernandina Beach (and even more during recent personal challenges). We gravitated to each other as veterans, chiding each other with the respectful inter-service rivalry of his Air Force blue and my Army green. We often lamented the things we missed in the service (commonality of purpose versus self-serving personal agendas) and grimaced about the things we didn’t (lengthy separations from family). We playfully challenged each other to fit into our past dress uniforms (something I was able to accomplish as long as I didn’t try to walk or sit – I was an Army dress blue sausage but I got it on!).

He was a co-conspirator drawing me to the airport a few years ago for a surprise skydiving trip for my birthday. I got the last laugh when he had to go up (and come down) with me. I was minimally qualified as an Army paratrooper, but Nate’s previous number of “landings” equaled his “take-offs.” Watching him unfold his larger frame in that tiny aircraft to get out was comical. If he weren’t required to jump in order for me to be able to get out, I bet he would have abandoned the jump after I exited and landed with the plane. He always said the Air Force guys were smarter than the Army guys.

In his time with the city, Nate has shepherded significant growth and development at the airport. It is commonly overlooked that the airport is entirely self-sufficient, not requiring the use of any city general fund (property tax) revenues. He has successfully leveraged operational revenues (rents and leases) to maximize the use of federal and state grant dollars. Taxiways and runways are expensive to maintain and rehabilitate, not even taking into consideration that the city airport has three active runways. The waiting list for individuals seeking hangar space has grown from a little over 20 to nearly 90 under his management: even more hangars are being designed and constructed to accommodate this demand (and despite a 30% increase in hangar rental fees; the newest hangars garner about $800 per month).

Nate has a wonderful family: wife Heather and young children James and Kylie. His parents, Mike and Becky, moved to the area shortly after Nate and Heather arrived. Fortunately, his new position will not require him to relocate.

The city will miss his leadership and experience and I will miss working with him daily. It will be a sizable challenge to fill his position. I am grateful, though, that I will still be able to enjoy his friendship. Maybe another jump, Nate?

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Al MacDougall
Al MacDougall (@guest_66979)
7 months ago

If Nate can make the airport solvent, it should be repeatible for the Marina and Golf Course….choose the leaders wisely.

DAVE LOTT(@dave-l)
7 months ago

Best wishes Nate for the future chapters in your life.Never any good reason to jump out of a flying aircraft so I understand your reluctance. All the best.

Les Marshall
Les Marshall (@guest_66995)
7 months ago

A huge loss for the Airport. Nate will be missed. He contributed so much to the success of the Airport. Good luck on your next venture.

Tom411 (@guest_67104)
7 months ago

Congrats Nate and a job well done. I am glad the former airport manager cleaned it up before she left!