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HomeAt Home & BeyondHernando County Dedicates “Schraut Tower”

Hernando County Dedicates “Schraut Tower”

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On Thursday morning, April 25, the Hernando County Government hosted a ceremony at the Brooksville- Tampa Bay Regional Airport and Technology Center (BKV) to honor the memory of Gary E. Schraut. A hard-working, outspoken, and respected individual, his influence could be seen in those who were present at Thursday’s ceremony. Members of his family and leaders from every corner of the community met to dedicate the Air Traffic Control Tower and a plaque in his honor.

Congressman Gus Bilirakis, State Senator Blaise Ingoglia, and Superintendent John Stratton, among others, were in attendance to pay tribute to the multi-talented man who was instrumental in the building of the control tower. Most of the Board of County Commissioners, who had unanimously voted to name it in honor of Schraut last October, also appeared and spoke on behalf of Gary’s memory.

“It is such a fitting tribute to name the control tower after Gary, given the fact that he worked tirelessly to promote, develop, and expand the airport’s infrastructure because he understood the economic potential that could be harnessed… It is a critical community asset,” said Congressman Bilirakis. “It was my honor and privilege to build upon Gary’s efforts by securing an additional $1.76 million for [BKV] in this year’s budget.”

The funds that were set aside by the state lawmaker will go towards wildlife fencing and gate management at the airport. Bilirakis entered a statement into the congressional record on behalf of Schraut and presented a copy of the remarks to the late Schraut’s fiancée, Jody Shannon. The quote honoring him will live on in United States history in perpetuity.

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“I am reminded every day that here is a man who showed up on the scene some 40 years ago and was not easily accepted,” said Jody. “He had a pushy, sometimes brash, style about him, but there [were] good people who recognized the quality in him that if you want to get something done, give it to Gary Schraut to do.”

Schraut accomplished much during his three-plus decades with the local airport. Under his leadership as Aviation Authority chairman, BKV was twice recognized statewide as the general aviation airport of the year. Gary was also instrumental in securing support for the instrument landing system (ILS) and the National Guard Helicopter Unit in addition to the control tower.

“He was more than just a realtor, more than just a developer,” said Elizabeth Narverud, Chairwoman of the Board of County Commissioners. “[Gary] was a friend and truly a mentor to many of us commissioners and people in this community where he came to us regularly just to talk about life and to help us learn more about this county […] he truly put his heart into everything he did here because his heart was with Hernando.”

Gary spent “countless hours” lobbying the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Department of Transportation (FDOT) to acquire funding and begin developing the control tower, which was his “crowning achievement,” stated a press release from Hernando County PIO Dominique Holmes.

Schraut’s efforts would ultimately secure a $2.1 million grant from FDOT for the construction of the tower, while the airport received an additional $450,000 for a total of $2.55 million. Development was then contracted out to Peter Brown Construction Inc., which completed the building in 2012.
Gary was a fierce friend and boisterous in his beliefs, but he gave to others anonymously. County Commissioner John Allocco liked this about Schraut and noted, “It is important when you believe in something that you get your word out.”

Former County Commissioner and State Representative Dave Russell discussed conversations he had with Schraut years ago about the control tower. He recounted a story from when the ground was being broken years ago. He told Gary that if his crew does not meet the number of operations required to have such a structure and the FAA “jerks our ticket,” he would take a can of red spray paint and write Schraut’s name on the walls.

Fortunately, they met their quota, but that would not have been necessary regardless because everyone already knew what Russell knew: “It has always been Schraut Tower.”

Gary Schraut's fiancee, Jody Shannon, and son Jeff (directly right of plaque) stand for a group photograph with local and state dignitaries. [Photo by Austyn Szempruch]
Gary Schraut’s fiancee, Jody Shannon, and son Jeff (directly right of plaque) stand for a group photograph with local and state dignitaries. [Photo by Austyn Szempruch]
David Russell (left) and Jody Shannon (right) unveil a plaque to Gary Schraut at the air traffic control tower. [Photo by Austyn Szempruch]
David Russell (left) and Jody Shannon (right) unveil a plaque to Gary Schraut at the air traffic control tower. [Photo by Austyn Szempruch]

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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