MOULTRIE — Leonard Burke won’t be at work this afternoon.

After 17 years with Maule Air Inc., the 89-year-old Burke will take a little time to enjoy being named Older Worker of the Year for the Southwest Georgia region.

But don’t think he’s getting away with playing hooky. Seated beside him at today’s reception in Camilla will be other representatives of Maule, because the Moultrie firm was also named the regional Employer of the Year of Older Workers.

Both award-winners will now proceed to the state level of the competition, the winner of which will be announced Sept. 16 in Columbus.

The event is sponsored by Experience Works, a state- and federally-funded organization that helps older workers stay in the workforce. Sharon Hill, the local representative of Experience Works, nominated both Burke and Maule Air for the award.

“[Burke’s] been in aircraft all his life,” Hill said, including service during World War II. She said he has five children, several grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

Maule Plant Manager Mark Holmes, who prepared the paperwork on which both Burke and Maule are being judged, said Burke is quality control inspector at the facility. He’s responsible for the accuracy of the blue print database; he makes sure all blue prints are current and available for production use; and he ensures all calibrated equipment is within calibration and document guidelines. He also inspects aircraft components to ensure they meet blue print specifications and are free of defects before they’re put in the storeroom for later use.

“Mr. Burke … readily assumes the huge responsibility of overall quality control of the administration and components that are utilized in aircraft production and ensures that the areas of his responsibility meet and exceed FAA requirements,” Holmes wrote in Burke’s recommendation letter. “His ability to interpret and follow FAA guidelines makes him one of the main go-to guys in the inspection department.”

Holmes praised Burke for a “positive, can-do attitude” that motivates others at the plant, his attention to detail, and his impressive work history.

“With his background, experience and excellent work ethic he is without a doubt a role model for many here at Maule,” Holmes wrote.

In his recommendation for Maule Air, Holmes noted the company’s ability to attract and retain older workers.

“Maule Air Inc. is a small, family-owned business that over the past 46 years since its first aircraft delivery has consistently recruited and maintained well experienced personnel, many of which have over 30 years of employment with the company,” he wrote.

Maule has 81 employees, and Holmes said 42 percent of them are over age 55.

Should Burke, Maule or both win next month in Columbus, they will next compete at the national level in Washington, D.C.

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