Carol Comer Retiring After Stellar Career in Aviation, Transportation

Carol Comer

As a young girl growing up, Carol L. Comer never dreamed that she would spend her career in aviation and transportation. “I always thought I would go to law school,” said Comer, who will be retiring from the Georgia Department of Transportation at the end of the month. “It is interesting looking back that those things didn’t go as I had probably planned, but I couldn’t have scripted a more rich and rewarding career.”

Comer began her Georgia Department of Transportation career in 1997 as an Aviation Planner in the Intermodal Division and, because of outstanding leadership skills and commitment to modal program delivery, quickly rose through the ranks reaching her final post as Director of the Division of Intermodal overseeing Aviation, Rail, Transit and Waterways in 2011.

Growing up in North Carolina, Comer’s interest in aviation began at an early age. She remembers on Saturday nights after dinner, they would clear the kitchen table and her dad – who got his pilot’s license by joining the Civil Air Patrol in his teens – would bring out his old FAA sectional charts and his E6B computer and they would flight plan trips, calculating their time enroute, fuel, etc. “Those early lessons truly sparked my lifelong love of aviation.”

Comer remained very interested in learning all she could about Aviation particularly about flying safety. She received her education from North Carolina State University in industrial engineering and received a Private Pilot License in 1986; an Instrument Rating in 1990; and a Commercial Pilot License with Single and Multi-Engine Land Ratings in 1991. She also obtained a Flight Instructor Certificate in 1992. Carol has logged over 3,500 flight hours.

She was introduced to state aviation while attending an FAA Safety Seminar sponsored by NCDOTs Aviation Division where she met some of their staff. “I was very intrigued with the diverse responsibilities they had, and one thing lead to another and here I am now after more than 30 years of public service to two state DOTs.” Comer joined the North Carolina staff as an Aviation Safety Specialist, developing promotional and outreach programs, providing training for general aviation pilots, and performing pilot duties.

Comer has been a leader on the national stage as well, having served in various capacities for the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO), highlighted by her time as the organization’s Chairman in 2015. In 2020, because of her contributions to aviation and her commitment to improving airports in Georgia, she was awarded NASAO’s Kenneth A. Rowe Ambassador of Aviation Award.

Members of the 2013 NASAO Executive Team from left, Tommy Booth (MS), Comer, Chris Willenborg (MA), and Dave Gordon (CO). Photo by Kim Stevens.

On a personal level Comer noted that NASAO, in a word, is family. “I feel so fortunate to have made friendships that will last a lifetime. The comradery, expertise, professionalism and passion for aviation that the members share provides such a unique system of support and a forum for the exchange of information.” In participating in NASAO Comer always felt a strong sense of responsibility and awe in knowing that they were representing the public interest in aviation and helping to shape aviation policy at the national level. “When we step back and think about it, that’s pretty weighty stuff.”

Looking back over the years, Comer reflected on the incredible opportunity public service has given her. “I’ve always liked helping people and building things,” said Comer. “As I look around our state, it’s really gratifying to see infrastructure projects my office has completed and the economic development that has followed. I know there are invisible fingerprints from our staff that helped make those projects a reality, and that’s always a powerful motivator.”

In retirement, Comer said she definitely plans to keep involved in aviation in some fashion. “I don’t have a well thought out plan at this point, but if history repeats itself, I’m sure I’ll have a fun and rewarding time ahead in retirement.”

The State Transportation Board adopted a resolution that recognizes Ms. Comer for her … hard work, dedication and tremendous contributions made through her leadership, passion, professionalism and unwavering commitment to advancing a multi-modal transportation system that promoted safety and mobility and supported opportunities for economic development.