"I was raised in Oak Ridge, Tennessee where I worked as Lifeguard for the City of Oak Ridge. During my last year in High School I worked for "Big Ed" Neusal at Big Ed's Pizza. Big Ed was Italian; in the Marine Corps during his younger days; and he was the most demanding (yet gentle) man in the world.
After graduation from High School in 1983, I joined the United States Air Force (USAF) where someone decided that I should be trained as an Air Traffic Controller. I had no idea what an Air Traffic Controller was at the time, but it sounded interesting. The Air Force sent me to Biloxi AFB in Mississippi for training, and then to my first (and only) duty station at Travis AFB in California -- not to the far reaches of the world that I so desired.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had not yet recovered from the PATCO Strike and subsequent firing of all Air Traffic Controllers by President Ronald Reagan, so in 1987 I submitted my application for Federal Employment and waited for a phone call.
The FAA called one afternoon to say that they could not offer me a job while I was still on active duty with the military. The lady on the other end of the phone told me that there was a job waiting for me, but that she couldn't offer it too me until I was free and clear of the USAF.
So on a leap of faith, I asked the Base Commander for an "early out" on the basis that I might be able to use my military training on the outside as an Air Traffic Controller. The Commander granted my request, and I was Honorably Discharged in July 1987 and hired by the FAA that October.
During my 25 years with the FAA, I worked as an Air Traffic Controller at Standiford Field (Louisvllle, KY); Oakland Bay TRACON (Oakland, CA); Regional Approach Control (DFW, TX); Austin Tower/TRACON (Austin, TX); Memphis Tower/TRACON (Memphis, TN); and then again at Austin Tower/TRACON where I retired from the FAA.
While working at Memphis I observed an unsafe situation where 2 aircraft nearly collided with each other when one aircraft executed an unplanned go-around maneuver and flew through the flight path of another arriving aircraft. I reported this incident to the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System, the NTSB, and eventually made Whistleblower Disclosures to the Office of Special Counsel and with the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General.
Various departments within the FAA said that the incident I observed was a non-event, and that the procedures that allowed this to happen were completely safe. It was all about airport capacity and money -- NOT safety. I spent the next year defending myself from retaliatory FAA managers while trying to explain and prove to investigators with no aviation experience that the flying public was at risk.
I was eventually vindicated, but at great personal and professional cost. FAA Managers were transferred, asked (told) to retire, and one was removed from Federal Service. My disenchantment with the FAA sprouted and grew from these events, and I was looking for something different to do.
Patty and I came to Lake City in May 2012 before the tourist season started. We brought our dogs with us in our Jeep and stayed at the Wagon Wheel. After the 3rd day of hiking and exploring Hinsdale County, I looked at Patty and told her that I wanted to leave the FAA and come live in Lake City.
Patty pulled-out a yellow legal pad and we started crunching numbers and making plans. We had a plan in place by the time we returned to Austin, TX. The plan changed over the next few months, but one year later to the exact week -- we opened The High Country Market.
The past year has been an intense learning experience, but we have no regrets. Well... we do miss eating sushi on Friday nights at Kenichi!" -- Peter