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Rod Hightower, who was named as the next EAA president at EAA AirVenture's opening day, met with the aviation press for the first time on Monday afternoon in an open question-and-answer session. The first question he faced was, what were you doing before? Hightower said he spent his career as a businessman, starting his first business with his brother at age 15. That generated funds to pay for his flight training, and he earned his private license at age 16. "Now I have commercial, multi-engine and instrument ratings," he said. Besides the restored Stearman biplane that he now flies, he previously flew a Cessna P210 in support of his business interests. "And that was such a productivity tool," he said, adding time to his schedule and providing a competitive edge. Tom Poberezny, the outgoing president, also attended the session and said he is confident that Hightower has the necessary skill set to carry EAA forward.
"I've taken the organization as far as I can," he said. Poberezny will remain involved with the nonprofit group as chairman of the board, where, he said, "I can do what I do best -- building relationships and fundraising. That will keep me involved and productive." For now, both Poberezny and Hightower said, the first priority is for Hightower to get to know the organization, and for the members to get to know Hightower. Going forward, Hightower said, his goal for the organization is to carry out the strategic plans developed by the board.