JOPLIN, Mo. — The Joplin Airport has seen big changes in the last 30 plus years, everything from post 9/11 security to a new terminal building. And now the man in charge of it all is saying goodbye.

He just wrapped up his last day at the Joplin Regional Airport.

“Today’s the last day of 30– almost 34 years,” said Steve Stockam, Joplin Airport Manager.

A number that’s now frozen for Steve Stockam. He started with the City of Joplin back in 1988 – then moved up to become the airport manager a couple of years later.

“I didn’t know anything about aviation at the time, was a tremendous learning curve.”

It’s been quite the education. Changes in location – moving to a $15 million terminal. Changes in flights.

“Actually one time we had four. In the mid 90s. We had TW, we had Northwest, we had Lone Star and we had US Air. We had 16 flights a day. Now they were smaller aircraft obviously,” continued Stockam.

9/11 redefined airport security and COVID decimnated passenger numbers.

“When you look at 2019, we were 100,000 passengers and we were cranking it away and we still have those passengers here. They’re still wanting to fly.”

Stockam says the airport generates more than $3 billion a year for Joplin. And while that had been his work life focus, it’s time to move on.

“Cardinal baseball and Mizzou sports has always been a big deal to me. But that I’ve got some grandchildren that are pretty, pretty special and pretty important and so going to be able to spend a little bit more time with them and be be more active in their lives. And that’s that’s a great thing,” he said.

The search is underway to find a new Joplin Airport Manager.

There’s no date set yet on that hiring.