They always have to keep the airport itself in mind, however. Any ice or snow needs to be removed almost immediately.
"For a jet, the FAA allows ... less than a half inch of any foreign material on the runway. The actual runway, they've got to stay on top of that," Black said.
Salt and sand aren't allowed on the runway, either, so other equipment needs to be used. Francis knew what he was doing, said Rodgers, the city spokesman.
"Tom's been a big part of the airport operation for many years, and we're going to miss his expertise," he said.
It's more than just plowing, of course, that makes up the day of the airport supervisor. Black said Francis did a good job finding grant money to support projects at Ottumwa Regional Airport. When Ottumwa Flying Service went to the Ottumwa Regional Airport in 1984, the airport was "a little run down," Black said. That's changed.
Especially in the last 10 years, he added. There have been a lot of improvements, many of which involved Francis.
"That's part of the job," Francis said about the cooperation he's extended visiting business people as well as Iowans. "I've always tried to be helpful."
As for retirement, he said he'll spend the first few days "just getting used to it."
— To follow reporter Mark Newman on Twitter, see @CourierMark