PROFILE: Meet Barbara McNally, Airport Director , "I love the Airport"


LAWTON - Barbara McNally is more of a feet-on-the-ground rather than a head-in-the-clouds kind of person.

  • Barbara McNally

LAWTON - Barbara McNally is more of a feet-on-the-ground rather than a head-in-the-clouds kind of person.

When she isn’t handling day-to-day business at the Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport, Barbara loves to get her hands in the dirt, working in her garden and tending her roses. On a larger scale, she cares deeply about the environment but doesn’t describe herself as fanatical.

She states the facts, asks questions and would really like to see a plan of action to address problem areas.

That might be the matter of fact, nuts and bolts business side of Barbara, but those are characteristics that have obviously led her to a successful career in management.


Barbara said she was born an “Army brat” in Fort Riley, Kan., to Evan and Anna Marie Pierson. After a tour of duty in Germany, the family ended up in Lawton.

“This is absolutely my hometown,” she said. “We moved here around the 1965 or 1966 time frame. Daddy passed when I was six and my mom raised my sister and me.”

Barbara’s sister Linda is nine years older than her.

“Mom was a force to be reckoned with,” Barbara said. She shook her  head and laughed. “She was a strong woman. It’s been said that strong women make strong women. We adored and feared her.”

Her late mother, Anna Marie, was from Austria and Barbara said she and her sister spoke German before they learned English.

“After Dad passed, Mom tried to move us back to Austria two different times. We were Americanized, though. We came back to Lawton to live, but spent some summers and Christmas in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.”

Barbara said her mom encouraged them to be in the kitchen and was always trying new recipes. She said her mom’s pastries were wonderful and she loved the traditions of cooking and freezing cookies.

“Mom was a homemaker and volunteered at the Red Cross. She worked at the YMCA. That was her home- away-from-home. She would swim laps every day and was 85 when she passed.”


Barbara’s local education path included Washington Elementary, Tomlinson Junior High and she graduated from Eisenhower High School in 1977.

In high school, she participated in Drama but said she enjoyed the “behind-the-scene stuff” the props and what goes in to the production.

From time-to-time she had speaking parts in a play but being front and center on a stage was not her favorite role.

After graduating from high school, she went to Cameron University and earned a bachelor’s degree in education. She then went back to school for a degree in airport management at Western Oklahoma State College in Altus.

She said she was married and had an 18-month-old baby on her lap as she was trying to study and do homework. It took three years of night school, but she accomplished her goal.


The Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport is the only place Barbara has ever worked. She started in high school working with car rentals for about 10 years and then former Airport Director, the late Jimmy Lingle, asked her to be his administrative assistant. After about 11 years in that job, she became the director.

“I love the airport,” she said, making a sweeping gesture around the room, which was seemingly meant to include the whole facility. She loves what she does and it’s obvious. It’s her home- away-from-home and excitement comes into her voice as she begins talking about grants and projects and upgrades that are underway.

“When Jimmy retired, it was my last semester of school and the board allowed my promotion to be a natural transition. There were all men on the board and they gave me an opportunity. For them to do that was amazing,” Barbara said.

Her duties include overseeing the administration, maintenance and operations of the airport, which includes accounting and management of federal grants and compliance with federal regulations. “Jimmy had already allowed me to be involved with grants and other things,” she said. “It was a natural transition.”

And, not too long after earning her degree in airport management at WOSC in Altus, the school administration asked her to teach part-time within the course.

“It was before telecourses and online classes,” Barbara said. “So, I drove to Altus. I ended up teaching about six or seven years. Eventually I was able to teach from a classroom at Cameron and not drive to Altus because of the television monitors. I taught a local class here in Lawton and my Altus class was able to monitor it.

“I’ve been able to spend a lot of time putting my degree to use even teaching the board about regulations and helping them understand. I have nine bosses. Every day is challenging and is something new,” she said.


As Barbara talked about changes at the airport through the years, she mentioned the presence of TSA (Transportation Security Administration) and what a great tenant the agency is. And, of course, TSA wasn’t originally part of airport protocol.

She said prior to Sept. 11, 2001, screenings for flights were done at the checkpoint by the airline employees.

“On 9/11, I was here at the airport. It was unbelievable. The televisions were on. We were watching the news and it was like a nightmare unfolding. I didn’t think what was happening in New York would affect us going forward,” Barbara said.

“It was eerily quiet. The planes were on the ground. The military aircraft was unprecedented."

“The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) immediately starting handling airport security. There were alerts and bulletins. It was a crazy week. We had to get into compliance."

“There were lockdowns and we had to identify anyone who was coming in. A “blast perimeter” was set up in front, which is something I never thought about,” she said.

As a result of that fateful morning in September almost 18 years ago, a lot changed in the airline industry. Barbara said that the FAA still requires mass-casualty exercises to be conducted every three years. There are grants available, but, “It’s a lot of work. We plan about a year out.”


Barbara credits the City of Lawton’s transformation through the years to the people who had a vision of what they wanted Lawton to become.

“The community has changed so much,” she said. “It’s taken folks with a vision going down the path. Credit goes to people like Dr. Rosemary Bellino with Lawton Beautiful who saw things that needed to change and then did something.

“Our chamber is progressive. I’m proud to be a girl from Lawton to be a hometown girl,” she said.


As might be expected, Barbara loves to travel but, unexpectedly, she doesn’t necessarily like to fly everywhere. She likes to see everything along the way.

“Life’s an adventure. I like to go anywhere there is a beach,” she said. “ ... Key West, the Outer Banks ...”

She also, of course, travels for business and mentioned she enjoyed the Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce Washington D.C. Fly in last March.

Some of her favorite trips are with her partner Bill Adams going to music concerts. They both enjoy all kinds of music, including Rock, Blues and Country.

“It doesn’t really matter,” she said. It can be Kenny Chesney, Billy Joel, Eric Clapton ... you know, music from when we were kids ... any live music venue ... dancing ...,” she said.

Barbara refers to their family as like the “Brady Bunch.” She and Bill have five children and eight grandchildren (five granddaughters and three grandsons.)

In fact, she was looking forward to the upcoming weekend when three of the grandchildren would be staying with them.

“It’s summer at Nanny and Pappa’s,” Barbara said, with a big smile. “It’s going to be swimming and slime!

“My life is wonderful. I love my job and I’m thrilled with my family.”