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'It was just time': Sayre retires as Yeager Airport director, Keller to take his place

Terry Sayre

Mike Hall (left), chief of staff for Gov. Jim Justice, presents outgoing Yeager Airport directer Terry Sayre with an award Wednesday. Sayre, who became director in 2015, announced his retirement prior to a meeting of the airport’s governing board on Wednesday.

Terry Sayre has announced his retirement as director of Charleston’s Yeager Airport, and assistant director Nick Keller has been named to take his place.

The change in leadership took place Wednesday during a meeting of the airport’s governing board.

Sayre, who joined the airport’s staff in 2007, faced no shortage of challenges after being named director in 2015, four months after the collapse of the airport’s runway safety area.

As director, he was instrumental in securing funding for — and overseeing the planning of — the rebuilding of the safety area, which included a new EMAS bed and the restoration of 500 feet of usable runway length. Sayre also oversaw the settlement of all lawsuits filed against the airport following the collapse, as well as suits filed by Yeager against contractors, vendors and engineers.

Sayre joined the Yeager staff in 2007 as an assistant director. In that position, he formed the airport’s Security and Safety Department, now known as the Operations Department, and was responsible for the creation of CRW Services, an in-house ground-handling service for low-cost carriers and large charter aircraft flying in and out of Yeager.

Sayre began his career as a patrolman with Charleston Police Department, starting in 1972. He went on to head the Charleston Police drug unit and created the multi-jurisdictional Metropolitan Drug Enforcement Network, or Metro Drug Unit, which he also led.

After leaving the police department in 1988, Sayre was an investigator for the State Tax Department and served as assistant director of the Kanawha County Planning Commission.

“Terry came in as director at a difficult time for the airport,” said Ed Hill, president of Yeager’s governing board. “Thanks to him, we’ve come out of our various tribulations in good shape.”

After Sayre announced his retirement, he received accolades, plaques and other mementos from Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper, Kanawha County Sheriff Mike Rutherford, and representatives of the Governor’s Office, the Transportation Security Administration, Yeager Airport Police and the Kanawha County Deputy Sheriffs’ Civil Service Commission.

“It was just time,” Sayre said of his retirement. “My grandson lives in Florida and I don’t want to miss any more of his baseball games or kindergarten events. The airport is in good hands. It has the support of its board, the county, the governor, and I have every confidence in the world it will succeed.”

Keller’s affiliation with the airport began in 2005, when he served as an intern and special assistant to then-director Rick Atkinson while a student at Purdue University.

At that time, the Yeager-based 130th Airlift Wing was targeted for closure by the Department of Defense, and Keller immediately became involved with the struggle to keep the base open. Keller traveled the nation collecting documentation pointing out flaws in the closure plan, and briefed the state’s congressional delegation, governor, adjutant general and others on new developments.

When that internship ended in early 2007, Keller became a full-time member of the Yeager staff, serving first as deputy assistant to the airport director, then being appointed director of public safety and special services in 2008, and security and safety manager in 2010, and assistant airport director in 2015.

Keller was instrumental in creating the Yeager-owned Capital Jet Center, which took over operation of the airport’s general aviation terminal from Executive Air in 2018. After two months of operation, CJC turned a profit while lowering fuel prices.

He also conceived the idea of creating a Marshall University aviation school at the airport, now on track to open in 2021, and created a new line of business for the airport by creating, in partnership with coal operators, military training zones on inactive surface mines within a 30-minute flight of Yeager. Yeager serves as the operations center and refueling site for such training activities.

As director, Keller, a Charleston native, said he plans to increase military use of Yeager and develop new ways to diversify the Charleston airport’s services and income streams.

“I would like to bring income into the local economy and find new ways to reinvent the airport,” Keller said. “But the airport’s on a good trajectory and it has a good team in place. I see that continuing.”

In another management change announced Wednesday, Yeager’s marketing director, Dominique Ranieri, was promoted to assistant director, and placed in charge of marketing, finance, general aviation and air service development.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at, 304-348-5169 or follow

@rsteelhammer on Twitter.

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Alexander, Jeanette - 11 a.m., Stockert-Paletti Funeral Home, Flatwoods.

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Bell, Don - 2 p.m., Leonard Johnson Funeral Home, Marmet.

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