vonTobel Says Goodbye After 13 Years as Airport Manager

By CALI BAGBY, October 11, 2013,  Islands Sounder Reporter

Bea vonTobel has a few things on her to do list: spend more time with her wife Cindy Elliott, renovate her kitchen and bathroom, revamp her deck and build a plane.

After 13 years as Airport Manager vonTobel is retiring.

“By the time I walk out the door I’ll be 72,” said vonTobel. “I want to find out what I want to be when I grow up. The Peter Pan complex is alive and well with me.”

Thirty-two applicants presented their resumes to the port commissioners in hopes of winning what vonTobel calls the best job on the island.

After a public meeting on Thursday night port commissioners selected Anthony “Tony” Simpson as their top choice and elected him as the new manager.

“Tony’s education and experience will serve him well in his new position,” wrote vonTobel in a press release.

Simpson is a  native of Delaware and a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, with graduate degrees from the University of Washington and the Naval Postgraduate School. He has 20-plus years of experience in operations in Afghanistan, Korea and Japan. He will finish his current position as a technical training expert for Boeing Aerospace Operations based at Misawa Airbase in Japan later this month and return to Orcas , where his family lives now.

His return to the island completes the circle for his wife, the former Blythe Stephens, and their two children. She is employed in the OASIS program of the Orcas Island School District.

vonTobel said Simpson will have plenty to keep him busy at his new position.

“You’re on the job everyday learning. There is so much variety and you have intellectual challenges and problem solving inside and outdoors,” she said.

vonTobel added that she has worked on many different levels at the airport from finance to communicating with the public to working with the port commissioners who she describes as “absolutely wonderful.”

She started working as manager in 2000 after a career at Orcas Island School District as the K- 12 counselor. Before that she worked in construction and at the golf course.

Some of the projects she looks back on with pride during her time as airport manager are putting up the fence, improving lighting and signage, installing a weather reporting system and storm water upgrades. Some projects are left to be finished by the new manager like the moving of a taxi way six feet to the east to allow more distance separation for aircraft.

She calls the job really a Chief Factotum position where one has to do everything and anything. But she said work is made simpler thanks to Facility Manager James Reid.

“He is mechanically minded and creative,” she said. “He is a great asset and is taking on more and more responsibility.”

Although vonTobel is leaving the airport she will not lose her love of planes. As a pilot she appreciates the work that goes into creating such an aircraft, which is why she has plans to build one. Her dream is to get a project started at the school to build the plane with students.

“It’s a great skill and I know in the future there will be pilot and mechanic shortages,” she said.

It’s clear whatever vonTobel will do next, it will keep her busy.

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