The Camden County Commission’s appointment of its Spaceport Authority members Friday came without little description, debate or ceremony. Just a reading of the five names, and a 3-2 vote to approve them.
If not for 40 minutes of irate public comment from citizens unanimously opposed to the appointments, it would have taken no longer than the Pledge of Allegiance and invocation.
On Monday, Camden County Administrator Steve Howard avoided the question of why the appointments couldn’t wait until after Tuesday’s referendum, the outcome of which could make the Authority moot.
“Camden County always intended to stand up the Spaceport Authority after receiving its Launch Site Operator License from the FAA,” he wrote in an email to The Current.
That may have been the intention, but the appointments came nearly three months after the license was granted on Dec. 20 and a only a bit more than three days before a referendum on the County Commission’s purchase of the land for spaceport.
Spaceport opponents who spoke at the 4:30 p.m. specially called meeting on Friday suspected the timing signaled an attempt to circumvent the ballot box by transferring to the Authority the right to buy land.
“Shame on you,” was the entirety of the public comment from Jim Goodman, a St. Marys council member who co-filed the petition that successfully sought the referendum.
The County Commission received its license December 20, 2021 and has had five other meetings since that time, four them regularly scheduled. The meeting Friday took place at 4:30 p.m. and was specially called with about 24 hours notice. The appointments were approved by a 3-2 vote.
Commissioner Ben Casey voted no but declined to explain why on Tuesday.
“I would rather not at this time. The whole thing kind of caught me off guard,” he said, noting that he drove from Tifton to make the late afternoon special meeting. He planned to vote on Tuesday for the purchase of the property.
All five authority members are men who live in Camden County. Two are county commissioners as required by the 2019 legislation that created the authority. They are Commission Chairman Gary Blount and Commissioner Chuck Clark.
“The Spaceport Authority is best equipped to interface with the wide variety of launch companies and developers interested in Spaceport Camden,” Howard wrote Monday. “This is an economic development best practice in the State of Georgia.
Short biographies of the three non-commissioner authority members follow, drawn from information provided by County Administrator Howard and other sources. We start with the business owner whose name may be familiar from his role as a Georgia Republican elector in 2020:
Yadav is a business owner. He moved to the county in 2003 and started his companies, which include several grocery stores and motels. The Georgia Secretary of State’s office lists Yadav and/or his wife as agents for 10 businesses in Kingsland including Cumberland Hospitality, Gope Food Mart, Gope Management Company and Camden Hospitality Services.
Yadav was “among the 16 Georgia Republicans who assembled at noon on Dec. 14, 2020, in the state Capitol and falsely certified that Donald Trump had won the state’s electoral votes,” the Georgia Recorder reported in January.
He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Yadav serves a member of the Georgians First Commission under the office of the Governor. The Commission, created by an executive order of Gov. Brian Kemp, aims to promote small businesses by identifying regulations that negatively or unnecessarily affect them.
Last year Yadav donated more than $5,000 to Republican candidates and the party in Georgia, including a $2,500 donation to U.S. Senate Republican primary candidate Herschel Walker, according to the Open Secrets web site.
Yadav serves as a chair of Kingsland Tourism; Vice Chair of Kingsland Development Authority as a board member of the Camden Partnership, Camden County Joint Development Authority, Camden County Chamber of Commerce, and Georgia Chamber; and as Secretary on the Coin-Operated Amusement Machine Board. He served on the board of the Kingsland Downtown Development Authority, and the Small Business Development Center board. He is a graduate of Camden Leadership 2010, Southeast Georgia Leadership 2018, and Leadership Georgia 2018.
Yadav earned his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering. He and his wife, Sugandha, have two sons.
Major General Bob Dickman (USAF ret.)
Major General Robert S. Dickman (USAF ret.) is the former commander of the 45th Space Wing. During his 18 months at Cape Canaveral in the 1990s, General Dickman oversaw 20 Titan IV, Atlas II and Delta II launches from Air Force launch sites on Cape Canaveral and provided range and range safety support to 10 Shuttle missions from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, all successful.
General Dickman also served as vice commander of what is now the 50th Space Wing at Schriever AFB, in Colorado, responsible for operating all Air Force on-orbit satellite systems; Director of Air Force Space Systems in the Pentagon; the first Department of Defense Space Architect; the senior military officer at the National Reconnaissance Office After retiring from active duty in 2000 he served as Deputy for Military Space in the office of the Undersecretary of the Air Force.
Dickman was executive director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, which bills itself as “the world’s largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession.” The AIAA lobbies agencies like the FAA and NASA.
In 2017 he joined the Spaceport Camden Steering Committee.
Dickman entered the Air Force out of the ROTC program at Union College. He later earned a master’s in space physics from the Air Force Institute of Technology, as well as a master’s in management from Salve Regina College. Dickman and his wife Barbara reside in St. Marys.
David Rainer, Jr.
Rainer was a NASA division manager in the Safety & Mission Assurance Directorate at the Kennedy Space Center. He was responsible for the safety of the ground personnel working on the International Space Station, the quality of the components delivered to it, and the safety of the astronauts living aboard.
Rainer grew up in Camden where his father was a county commissioner and longtime public school superintendent.
Earlier this month Rainer gave a pro-Spaceport presentation he called “Spaceport 101” at the Camden County High School auditorium, the Brunswick News reported.
During the Space Shuttle Program, Rainer worked in a variety of positions including operations with the Russians during the Space Shuttle visits to the Russian Mir Space Station. He became one of a dozen NASA Test Directors responsible for the direction of the Space Shuttle Launch Team. In this position, he directed the Launch Team in many procedures during the Shuttle Countdown. As a NASA Convoy Commander, he oversaw Shuttle landings at KSC or at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
After the loss of the Shuttle Columbia and its crew of seven, he went to East Texas to fly in helicopters searching for debris from Columbia. When he returned, he was asked to join the Safety organization to help it be a stronger organization for returning the Space Shuttles to flight once again. He went on to manage a safety and quality team tasked with independently determining the launch readiness of Space Shuttles for the remainder of the Shuttle Program. He gave the final “Safety is GO for Launch” from the Launch Control Center for the last flights of Space Shuttles Discovery and Endeavour.
He has worked with many international space partners such as those from Russia, Japan, Italy and Germany. In his current position, he continues to work with the Russians and Japanese to fly components to the ISS.