His career takes off at the airport
James Keeley has been fascinated with flight since he was a boy.
"I don't really know where it came from, but ever since I was younger, I would look up at the sky and look at the airplanes and think to myself one day," he said.
When his parents took him to an airshow at the Palatka Municipal ‘Lt. Jasper Kennedy "Kay" Larkin Field’ Airport when he was fourteen, he knew that he would make it 'one day' happen sooner rather than later.
James, 18, a lifelong Palatka resident and a Palatka Junior\Senior High School graduate, is working towards his goal.
"My first week on the job, this kid came to me and said, 'I want to learn about airports and being an airport manager,' said Palatka airport manager Yul McNair, "I was impressed, and when he got into the City's summer youth intern program we brought him out here with us to learn."
After graduation, he joined the airport team by working part-time as an operations assistant while training for his private pilot license.
"It is a great job. I get here early and help out with the morning fuel checks and inspect our fuel tanks, and then we usually have a few random things pop up; maybe somebody might be stuck on a taxiway, and we'll help them. If they have a flat tire, we'll tow them in. Or if we have a jet, come in, we'll help fuel them," he said. "One day, somebody dropped some FOD (foreign object debris) on a runway, so we had to go out there and pick that up. We've had the windsock that needed to be replaced. We replaced that. Lots of general maintenance, but mostly we work on helping our customers have a good experience."
James says that one of the best things about working for the airport is that once pilots know that he is interested in aviation, they go out of their way to teach and share their knowledge.
"I've been lucky enough to start a jet. The pilot brought me to the flight deck and let me start the plane. So that was pretty cool," he said.
Another time, a local pilot flew him to Savannah from Palatka to have lunch.
James uses the money he earns working for the airport to pay for pilot training. He is within a few weeks of soloing and getting his private pilot license. He plans to continue his training and work up to a commercial pilot license with the goal of working for an airline or flying private jets.
Airport manager McNair is glad to have James on staff.
"One of my professional goals is helping young people get into the field of aviation," said McNair, "I am happy that the airport and the City can help James and other interested youth work towards their futures."
"The internship program was a great opportunity. I learned a lot. And then to get the opportunity to work here and to be around these great people has been a great way of going about things. It's been a good route. I have been very lucky," James said, "Palatka has helped me greatly, I am proud to call it my home."
Remembering Sept. 11
Putnam County Fire Rescue will host its annual 9/11 remembrance ceremony on Monday, Sept. 11, at the Riverfront Park pavilion in downtown Palatka. The event, beginning at 9:40 a.m., will feature the presentation of colors by the Putnam County Fire Rescue Honor Guard. Participants will include members of the Putnam County Fire Rescue, Palatka Fire Department, and Putnam County Sheriff's Office. Current and retired firefighters, police, and military personnel are encouraged to attend in Class A uniform. The public is invited to come and support local first responders during this commemoration.
Project of the Week
TIF district sidewalk repairs
The contractors for the City of Palatka have been working on replacing and repairing sidewalks in the North and South districts of the City. The project, which was funded by Tax Increment Financing or TIF, will cost $50,000 in both districts and should be complete by the end of September.
TIF funding is a financing method used by the Commission to pay for improvements in the three districts that directs a portion of property tax revenues from property owners of the districts to their neighborhoods.
The work on the sidewalks is just one of 45 projects underway or planned in the City of Palatka, totaling more than $60 million.
Helping those in need
As summer draws to a close and we approach the holiday season, community members who wish to support our food-insecure friends and neighbors are encouraged to drop off non-perishable food items at Palatka City Hall, 201 N 2nd Street., to be donated to the Bread of Life food kitchen. City Hall is open for donations weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please call (386)-213-2678 for more information.
Food items of particular need are,
- Canned meats (tuna, chicken, salmon)
- Dried or canned beans (black beans, pinto beans, lentils)
- Peanut butter
- Canned Vegetables:
- Green beans
- Mixed vegetables
- Canned Fruits:
- Fruit cocktail
- Grains and Staples:
- Rice (white or brown)
- Pasta (spaghetti, macaroni, etc.)
- Cereal (preferably whole grain)
- Canned Soups and Broths:
- Chicken noodle soup
- Tomato soup
- Vegetable soup
- Beef broth
- Chicken broth
There is also a great need for the following non-food items.
- Personal-size hygiene items (Like those we have during hotel stays ;)
- Bottled Water and Gatorade/Powerade drink packets
- Body Wash
- Feminine Products (tampons and napkins)
- Depends (for adults )
- Shaving creme
- Disposable razors
- Band aids
- Lip balm
- Rain ponchos
- Seasonal items
- Hot hands packets (for hand warming)
- Insect repellent (spray, wipes, etc)
- Warm hats
The Bread of Life is open for lunch Monday to Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and serves approximately 100 people every day.
Movie night in Riverfront Park a success
More than a hundred children and their families attended a free showing of the movie The Super Mario Brothers Movie on Saturday, Sept. 2. The event, held by the City’s Department of Palatka’s Recreation & Cultural Arts, featured a foam party, bounce houses, a 360-degree photo booth and free popcorn.
“I was thrilled with the community movie night’s results. The attendance was amazing and consisted of community members of all ages who were enthusiastic and actively participated. Choosing the film ‘Super Mario Brothers’ was an excellent decision because it connected with everyone,” said Palatka City Commissioner Justine Campbell, who attended the event along with Commissioner Tammie McCaskill and Mayor Robbi Correa.
“Prior to the screening, there was an energizing atmosphere filled with laughter, music, and dance. This event truly created a lasting memory and united our community significantly,” Commissioner Campbell continued.
Boardwalk to reopen after hurricane delay
Delayed by Hurricane Idalia, the boardwalk under the Memorial Bridge in the City is scheduled to reopen on Saturday, Sept. 7, after being renovated. The boardwalk is part of the statewide Rails-to-trails system owned by the Florida Department of Transportation but maintained by the City under an operational agreement.
Florida’s Rails-to-Trails program re-purposes abandoned railways into recreational trails, providing opportunities for walking, biking, and other outdoor activities.
The trail that passes through Palatka is more than 50 miles long and connects Vermont Heights in St. Johns County to Lake Butler State Park in Union County.
The repairs started on Aug. 2.
Featured Job of the Week - Water Treatment Plant Superintendent
The City of Palatka is seeking a new superintendent for our R. C. Willis Water Treatment Plant. This role entails managing daily operations of the water treatment facility, from supervising operators and mechanics to handling payroll, budgeting, purchasing, and project management, and the candidate must have a Florida Water or Wastewater Plant Operator Class “A” License. Beyond overseeing the plant, we're searching for someone to join our dedicated team and play a pivotal part in Palatka's growth and ensuring service to our special community. For more information about the job, visit palatka-fl.gov/378/City-of-Palatka-Water-Plant.
Other Career Opportunities
The City of Palatka has job openings available for the following positions. If you are interested in any of the following roles, please consider applying:
Equipment Operator (Driver):
This role involves skilled work in operating manual and semi-automated refuse collection and disposal equipment on designated routes.
We are seeking dedicated firefighters to join the City of Palatka’s Fire Department and contribute to the safety and well-being of the community.
Join the Palatka Police Department as an officer and play a crucial role in maintaining law and order within the city.
In this position, you will perform routine manual refuse collection work as part of the city’s refuse collection and disposal program.
The Facilities Maintenance Assistant performs a variety of unskilled and semi-skilled tasks to maintain the City's portfolio of facilities, grounds and infrastructure in a safe and effective working condition.
Sanitation Equipment Operator (Driver):
We are looking for skilled individuals to operate manual and semi-automated refuse collection and disposal equipment on designated routes.
As a Streets Laborer, you will perform various types of semi-skilled and skilled work, operating equipment involved in the repair and maintenance of city streets, storm sewer systems, and other municipal property.
Utility Maintenance Worker-Trainee:
This position involves semi-skilled work in constructing, installing, maintaining, and repairing water mains, water services, fire hydrants, sewer mains, sewer laterals, manholes, force mains, and valves.
Water Plant Mechanic:
Join our team as a Water Plant Mechanic and use your skills to perform preventative and corrective maintenance on machinery, engines, generators, pumps, and motors at the water treatment plant and related facilities.
Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Trainee:
As a Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator Trainee, you will be responsible for performing various semi-skilled and skilled tasks and operating equipment involved in the repair and maintenance of the city’s wastewater treatment plant and associated collection systems.
For more information or to apply for any of these positions, please visit Palatka-fl.gov.
September 14 — Palatka City Commission Meeting 6 p.m. in the Palatka City Hall, 201 N 2nd Street.
September 19 — Special Magistrate Hearing (Meeting) 1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. in the Palatka City Hall
September 28 — Palatka City Commission Meeting 6 p.m. in the Palatka City Hall, 201 N 2nd Street.
Palatka City Commission meetings at broadcast live on the City’s Youtube channel — https://www.youtube.com/@cityofpalatkaofficialpage6325