Harrison celebrates family heritage as 2018 burgermeister

Photo courtesy Leanne West

On Monday afternoon, Harrison stopped by Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs’ office long enough to grab a selfie with Jacobs’ administrative assistant Leanne West.  (Photo courtesy Leanne West)

CULLMAN – For Cullman Regional Airport General Manager Ben Harrison, being named the 2018 Cullman Oktoberfest Burgermeister isn’t just a civic honor, it is an opportunity to connect with his family heritage.  A Cullman native, he represents the fifth generation of both the Basch and Wörz/Woerz families, who were among the city’s original settlers.

Harrison told The Tribune, “For me, I’m honored because of the longevity of our family.  You know, I’m fifth generation here of some of the original settlers, and so I’m honored that I can carry on that tradition, even if it’s just for a week.

“I think it’s very important to know your history, know your family history.  You’ve got to know where you’ve been before you know where you’re going, so I think it’s important that we carry on a tradition to remember where we’ve all come from or how the community got here and where it came from.”

Harrison has worked at the Cullman Regional Airport since 2012 and has served as general manager since 2014.  During that time, he has led the airport through major improvements to its runways, taxiways and aprons to accommodate heavier aircraft and serve the needs of the multiple local industries that use the facility. 

Earlier this year, Harrison said, “We are an economic development driver for the city of Cullman and for all of Cullman County.  We don’t do economic development, but we host the companies that are coming in, that are doing economic development here.  I would say, pretty much all the large industry, at some point in time, always has someone coming into the airport several times per year, whether it be executives, whether it be air cargo that they need, whether it be people coming in to do business with them.  So, constantly, we have someone coming in that deals with all the local major suppliers.”

Harrison is also a member of the National Air Transportation Association’s Airport Business Committee and serves as vice chair for tourism on the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors.

A busy week underway

Harrison began making the burgermeister rounds early Monday morning, arriving in his lederhosen at 7 a.m. to greet students at East Elementary, before moving on to more stops around town through the day.

He understands the responsibilities and general lack of rest and personal time the role of burgermeister entails, saying, “I’m going to try to be as many places as I possibly can . . . I’ll try to hit the majority of the schools.  So I’ll do as much as I possibly can.  You know, you only get to do this once; so I’m going to try to do everything, or at least what I can do.”

Cullman Oktoberfest officially opens Wednesday night at 6 p.m. with opening ceremonies at the Festhalle. For more on this week’s Oktoberfest events, visit www.cullmanoktoberfest.com/2018-schedule.html or call 256-727-0949.

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