By Joel Hall
According to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Program Manager Tracy Gilbert, many young people don't realize it takes more than pilots and flight attendants to run an airport, and that many of those behind-the-scenes jobs are done by women.
For the second year in a row, the airport honored several outstanding women employed in, and around, the airport during its Women's History Month Recognition Luncheon. The luncheon took place Thursday, March 27 at the Atlanta Airport Marriott Hotel.
Gilbert said the airport structured the luncheon after a similar program put on by Atlanta City Hall every year to honor its female employees.
Through the program, "We are able to highlight women in non-traditional roles," said Gilbert. Among the 35 female Department of Aviation employees honored were pilots, airplane maintenance and security officials.
Gilbert said the program serves as an educational and mentoring tool for girls attending airport-area schools. Students attending Tri-Cities High School, North Clayton High School, M.D. Roberts Middle School, and South Atlanta Educational Complex School of Leadership and Economic Empowerment, were invited to the program to interact with women in different airport professions.
As the crew leader of detail maintenance, Letitia Lopez oversees all aesthetic details of the airport, making sure the airport has a clean appearance, inside and out. Lopez is in charge of the contractors who plant every flower bed, position every potted plant, and prune every bush, making sure their work is in proper contract compliance.
Lopez, one of the 35 women honored, said the luncheon demonstrated the airport's increasing appreciation of her work and of women in general.
"I was excited about it, because they are starting to realize that we are not just putting out flowers," said Lopez. "They are really appreciating the beauty and color we are bringing to the airport."
Lopez said that in order to comply with the state's drought guidelines, many plants around the airport have been replaced by silk flowers, which require no watering. In the coming months, however, Lopez is trying to bring in a larger variety of flower bulbs to give the airport a more "Southern look."
"Anything pleasing to the eye is going to make you smile just a little bit," said Lopez. "It changes the mood ... it really does."