In his eight years working at Tampa International Airport, systems maintenance worker Norberto Bonilla has never complained or said anything negative at all. He is always smiling. He had perfect attendance for seven straight years until a minor medical procedure forced him to miss a couple days. He clocks in at exactly 04:00 hours and leaves at precisely 14:30. That has never changed, to the amazement of those who work with him.
“Personally, I think he’s the best guy in the whole airport,” said Chuck Shye, Systems Supervisor at TPA. “Seriously, I cannot say enough about him – that’s how highly I think of Norberto.”
Bonilla said he loves the environment at Tampa International Airport and doesn’t know why anyone would ever want to miss a day of work. After his family moved to Massachusetts when he was 8 years old, his parents raised their four children to be hard workers, and Norberto admired his mother, a hotel maid, the most. The family later moved to New York City.
“My brothers and sister always liked working,” Bonilla said. “I always liked fixing stuff, and I love learning new things from other people.”
At age 18, Bonilla joined the U.S. Marine Corps and worked in Aviation Administration, where he worked on jets and planes for four years. While he loved working around aviation, he never expected he’d wind up in the industry many years later.
After leaving the Marines, he decided to move to Tampa, where his sister lived at the time. He enjoyed the weather and decided to stay, even after his sister moved back up north, and he worked as a maintenance manager at a Howard Johnson motel on Dale Mabry Highway for 10 years.
Later, while working for British Airways’ ground handling and maintenance services at TPA, a friend who worked for the airport kept suggesting Bonilla apply for a job with Civil Service to be a full-time employee with the Aviation Authority. Bonilla did, and he said it was one of the best decisions he ever made.
“Every time I see that friend, I say thank you,” he said.
Bonilla does a lot of repairs on the baggage belt system and other maintenance jobs throughout the airport. In his free time, Bonilla likes to fish and read science fiction novels. He spends a lot of time working on home repair and building projects with his friends. He runs, and recently participated in a Tough Mudder obstacle race. He also likes to spend time with his 20-year-old stepson, Mike, who attends St. Petersburg College.
Bonilla said he’s excited about all of the upcoming changes happening as the airport begins its Master Plan projects.
“He always volunteers for the labor intensive projects, and he’ll bend over backwards for anyone,” Shye said. “I cannot say enough good things about the guy.”