NATCA Honors Past President John Carr With "Bullpen" Dedication
Friday, November 18, 2011


John and his wife, Jill, after the dedication ceremony, with children (from left to right) Rachael, Robbie, Brandon and Jessica.

For all of the appropriate baseball metaphors used last Monday during a heartfelt tribute to former NATCA president John Carr – the dedication of an outdoor terrace at the National Office now appropriately named “The Bullpen” – it was a boxing reference which best describes Carr’s two terms in office:
 
“NATCA fought above its weight class.”
 
Carr’s leadership style maximized the union’s effectiveness by inspiring our members and activists to do more, to reach higher and to realize their full potential. What the union lacked in numbers, it more than made up for in work ethic, determination, guts, grass roots activism, political action committee donations and sheer heart.
 
Carr met an array of challenges and pivotal moments when he took office in 2000, two years after serving on the landmark 1998 Green Book contract team that helped deliver NATCA one of its greatest success stories. He faced the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath, an anti-labor White House and FAA Administrator, attempts to privatize 71 of our towers and the elimination of fairness from the collective bargaining process at the FAA.
 
But through it all, NATCA fought and fought hard. After 9/11, Aviation Daily named Carr one of aviation’s most powerful leaders. Through his strong leadership and passionate, fierce dedication to fighting for NATCA, there were many triumphant moments too.  According to Carr, the most satisfying, important and inspirational times in his tenure were helping members save their careers after receiving unfair treatment from the agency.
 
Carr’s longtime friend and former co-worker, retired C90 controller and former facility rep Ray Gibbons, said the naming of the National Office terrace “The Bullpen” was perfect for Carr because as the closer for the union, he “saved a lot of careers,” in Chicago, New York and elsewhere.
 
Gibbons joined a lengthy list of guests Monday who came to the National Office with wide smiles and warm memories to honor Carr and proudly carry out the wishes of the Hawaii Convention delegates. The dedication of “The Bullpen” involved renaming the outdoor terrace in front of the west side of the NATCA National Headquarters building, which is named for NATCA’s second president and other two-term leader, current Executive Director Barry Krasner. The terrace is outside of the main level conference room named for Carr’s predecessor and NATCA’s third president, Mike McNally.
 
The National Executive Board was there, as well as former EVP Dr. Ruth Stilwell (ZMA) who served NATCA with John during both of his terms (2000-2006). Many members and National Office staff employees were also on hand, and invited guests such as Ed Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department. And, of course, Johnny “The Bull” himself was there, with his wife, Jill, his four young children, his brother, Tom, his sister, Lucy, and his brother-in-law.  Several guests spoke one by one of the impact Carr made within and for the NATCA family.
 
“John Carr bleeds NATCA and he poured every ounce of his fire, tenacity, blood and sweat into the job of president during every day of his six years in office,” said NATCA President Paul Rinaldi, who hosted Monday’s event. “On behalf of each of our members, past and present, and their families, I thank John for his incredible service to NATCA. We as NATCA presidents always strive during our time in office to leave the union in better shape than when we entered office, and John certainly elevated our great union during some very eventful and important years.”
 
An inspiration. A legacy. An amazing man with fierce tenacity. These are just some of the additional words mentioned to describe Carr from the podium Monday.
 
Great Lakes Regional Vice President Bryan Zilonis, who represents Carr’s home region from his days as a controller in Chicago and Cleveland, spoke of the current programs Carr envisioned while in office that have now been implemented because of him, such as Professional Standards and ATSAP.
 
“John’s vision is something that I think people often overlook when you look at his accomplishments,” Zilonis said. “When you look at what we’re doing right now with ATSAP and Professional Standards, those were programs in 2003 that John told me, ‘I need you to get this for us.’ We worked since 2003 to put into place what started as John’s vision.”
 
Stilwell provided impassioned reflections of Carr’s accomplishments and noted that his legacy will forever have an impact on the NATCA community.
 
“He inspired a generation of activists in this union. Your legacy is not what you did in this office, it’s what continues after you leave,” Stilwell said. “John changed how our members viewed their union, but more importantly, how they viewed themselves. He changed the way NATCA members felt about their profession.”
 
With two of Carr’s kids joining him at the podium during his acceptance remarks, his first recognitions went to his family. His kids were born during his terms as president. He admitted the time he took away from his family was great, but it was the sacrifice he took for a job that he loved so much.
 
“When I was in office, I wasn’t trying to get an award,” Carr said. “Nobody comes to office trying to get an award or recognition. You’re just doing your job. That’s what controllers always say after a save, ‘I was just doing my job.’”
 
In a year in which NATCA is proudly celebrating its 25th anniversary, it is appropriate to honor Carr, one of the union’s founding members. After serving his country for four years as a Navy controller in Texas and aboard the USS Eisenhower, Carr worked at Kansas City Tower and TRACON, Chicago TRACON and Cleveland Tower and TRACON. In 1986, he became the first local chapter president in Kansas City, helping to fuel the rising tide of a young NATCA being born. He then served every elected union position at Chicago TRACON.
 
“During his terms in office and even in retirement, John has never stopped being an air traffic controller nor has his love for NATCA and its members ceased,” said Trish Gilbert, NATCA’s Executive Vice President. “It is who he is.”  
 
Carr displayed his passion for the profession of air traffic control by often telling reporters and others that he dearly missed having his headset on, talking to airplanes.  He spent his time in Washington, D.C. – a place he lived as a youth, even delivering The Washington Post during the years that included the Watergate scandal – talking to anyone and everyone about controllers and NATCA, from Capitol Hill to every corner of town. His communications skills were legendary. The media couldn’t get enough of his lively, quotable style, communicating a strong message to the public and increasing NATCA members’ reputation as hard-working safety professionals.
 
Carr’s legacy will forever be embedded in the union, appreciated and remembered by countless brothers and sisters.
 
“I’ve never worked harder or longer or with more passion on anything in my entire life. I left everything on the playing field and I’d do it again in an instant for free,” said Carr.  “I want to thank you all very much for this honor. I miss you. I love you very much.”


NATCA President Paul Rinaldi presents John Carr with a plaque commemmorating the dedication of "The Bullpen" outside the National Office.


John speaks to the crowd, joined by the oldest of his four children, daughter Rachael.


John poses with a special gift, a pitching rubber signed by those who attended the dedication ceremony, including the NEB, former EVP Ruth Stilwell and National Office staff. In the background is a picture of John from his controller days, part of a photo presentation shown on the video screen in the National Office lobby.


Banner that was hung outside the Mike McNally conference room at the NATCA National Office, where Monday's dedication ceremony took place.