Santa Maria Airport board member Ted Eckert dies

Retired Air Force colonel served on the board for 20 years

Retired Air Force Col. Ted Eckert, known for his steady hand and solid guidance while serving on the Santa Maria Public Airport District Board of Directors for 20 years, died Tuesday night after a lengthy illness.

Eckert, 75, who later worked as a flight safety analyst for an aerospace contractor at Vandenberg Air Force Base, had served on the airport board since 1987. He was re-elected to another term in November 2010.

“Ted brought a great insight to the board. He was always like the steady hand,” said fellow board member Carl Engel. “We had tenant board members and we had business board members and had clashes between the two. Ted was always the steady hand between the two.”

Eckert played a key role in evolution of the airport including development of the business park plan and the current runway extension.

The airport board recognized Eckert for his leadership over the past 22 years at its May 28 meeting, which he was too ill to attend.

“He definitely helped to get me involved in the community. He got me involved in Leadership Santa Maria and the Rotary Club,” said airport General Manager Chris Hastert, one of four general managers that Eckert helped hire. “He was involved in so many things it’s hard to keep track. I definitely consider him a mentor.”

Dan Hoback was general manager at the airport from 1984 to 1994 when Eckert was elected to his first term on the board in 1987 and later served on the board with him from 1995 to 1997.

“He was a really solid thinker, a steady guy. (He) had the best interests of the community in mind about what the airport meant to the community,” Hoback said. “Obviously being there for a long time he had the opportunity to be the consistent element on the board as things changed.

“I think the real pillar of strength behind him was his wife Shirley. She saw him through his career.”

Eckert also was an active advocate of the First Tee junior golf program and a long-time member of the Santa Maria Rotary Club and Leadership Santa Maria Valley among many civic organizations.

Leadership Santa Maria Valley honored Eckert in May with its first Lifetime Achievement Award, which was named after him.

Survivors include his wife of 54 years Shirley and two children.

Arrangements are being handled by Dudley-Hoffman Mortuary and Crematorium.

Posted in Local on Thursday, June 9, 2011 12:00 am Updated: 11:41 pm.