Tampa International Airport’s new Manager of General Aviation Lisha Harris has dedicated the last 17 years to a career in the aviation industry, but as a young girl she dreamed of a career as welder. That’s right, a welder just like her father.
In her late teens, she enrolled in a 12-week welding course and then interned for three months at Westinghouse Electric Company, where her father worked, after receiving her certification.
“Looking back on it now, we all want, as children, the approval of our parents,” she said.
As an intern, Harris did some Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding on a turbine the size of three city buses in a nuclear reactor.
She abandoned those welding dreams when she and her husband moved from Pensacola as newlyweds so he could take a job as a Florida State Trooper in Pinellas County. Soon after that, Harris got her first job in aviation through an employment agency. She began as a Customer Service Representative for Page Avjet, the Fixed Base Operator (FBO), at St. Pete/Clearwater International Airport.
“I got a $100 tip my very first day,” she said. “I thought I picked the best job ever.”
A business man forgot his briefcase in the airport lobby and called the customer service desk to ask if Harris could hold his briefcase until he returned later that afternoon from an important business meeting. Taking initiative, Harris found out where the business meeting was being held and personally delivered the briefcase, prompting the generous tip.
Harris worked in management for several other FBO’s Jacksonville, Panama City and Tampa. As Manager of General Aviation, Harris has strategic oversight of Peter O. Knight, Plant City and Tampa Executive Airports.
“Our airports are actually huge economic drivers and bring value to the community,” Harris said.
Community involvement with the three GA airports is an important aspect of Harris’ job. She’s instrumental in organizing and hosting activities and events like Islands Fest at Peter O. Knight Airport.
In her spare time, Harris enjoys swinging a golf club and making wine with her husband. She recently won “longest drive for ladies,” which was 208 yards, at a recent golf tournament hosted by TPA in Pebble Creek.
To make wine, Harris buys bladder packs of apple and grape concentrates and packets of ingredients like yeast and sugar. After letting the mixture ferment for several weeks, she yields 27 to 30 bottles of wine in a single batch. Cheers!