By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BENTON HARBOR – Southwest Michigan Regional Airport is changing leadership in style.
The airport’s terminal hosted a luncheon and leadership transition ceremony for two hours as a way to give outgoing Airport Manager Lee Scherwitz a send-off and welcome incoming manager Vincent DesJardins.
“I’m leaving the airport in very capable hands,” said Scherwitz, who also spent 26 years with the Air Force. “This is a fun day for me because he is in terror right now.”
DesJardins said he had wanted to be considered for the airport’s managerial position since he was first hired as an operations supervisor. The moment came to fruition when the airport committee decided to hire from within.
“I was ecstatic. It feels good, but slightly terrifying,” DesJardins said. “It’s a lot of responsibility and we have a lot of projects we are working on.”
Scherwitz and DesJardins stood in front of more than 50 people, who spoke highly of both men and presented Scherwitz with mementos for his 15 years of service to the airport.
Scherwitz, who was called “the sheriff of the airport,” was known by his friends and colleagues for having plenty of energy and everlasting tenacity.
Betsy Steudle, program manager at the Michigan Department of Transportation’s aeronautics office, presented both men certificates for their service to the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph area.
Even Whirlpool Corp. officials made appearances to express their thanks to Scherwitz.
“Were it not for your leadership we would not be able to harbor so much traveling for our business,” said Jeff Noel, vice president of communications and public affairs. “There is no one more dedicated, no one more hardworking than Lee Scherwitz. He’s not the kind of guy that likes to take credit for much, but I could stand up here for a half an hour talking about what he’s done for this community.”
While Scherwitz’s last official day will be June 30 – ushering in the new fiscal year for the airport – no one will know better because he plans on returning part time.
“I’m not going to miss anything because I’m still going to be here,” he said afterward. “This is my baby. It’s my life, blood, sweat and tears. It’s a part of me.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on June 19, 2015)