Saturday, December 20, 2014

Retired Air Force colonel chosen to lead Yampa Valley Airport (KHDN), Hayden, Colorado

Steamboat Springs — Routt County Manager Tom Sullivan confirmed Friday that retired Air Force Col. Kevin A. Booth, his top candidate to become the new Yampa Valley Regional Airport manager, has accepted the position and will begin his new role Jan. 12.

“Kevin has done a ton of work to take this position, and he’s very excited about coming up here,” Sullivan said. “He told me, ‘This is the airport I’ve prepared for the last few months.’”

Since retiring from the military less than a year ago, Booth has operated his own aviation and aerospace firm, K.B Consultants. He had a long career managing military airfields from Germany to Alaska. But his last post with the Air Force from 2009 to 2013 was as the senior military adviser to the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia.

Most recently, Sullivan said, Booth has been studying operations at Centennial Airport south of Denver.

Booth said he was attracted to the opening at YVRA by what he senses is a close relationship between the community and the airport.

“I’ve lived in the Colorado Springs area, but mountain towns have a special place in my heart, and this is such a vibrant community with such a close relationship to the airport," he said. "The importance of the airport to the community was important to me.”

Among his many assignments with the Air Force, Booth said it was his tenure as chief operating officer at Spangdahlem Air Force Base, Germany, from 2002 through 2004 that most closely compares to his new role at YVRA.

“I was the equivalent of an airport director there for the last two years I was in Germany,” Booth said. “It was the busiest military airfield in Germany. At the time I was there, it became really busy as (military) operations in Iraq and Afghanistan increased. We became a dual-use airfield. Originally, I had a fighter wing, but we (took on) a lot of airlift and transport operations.”

Yampa Valley travelers might be reassured to hear Booth say that if anything, snow removal might have been a bigger deal at Spangdahlem than at YVRA.

Booth also worked from 2007 to 2009 as chief operating officer and director of the air operations center at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, where he oversaw a $5 million budget and led an organization of 700 people for the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

Booth, who is also a pilot with over 4,000 hours, has an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering, and he said that during a six-year career with an international construction firm, he spent three of those years as lead engineer on an airport construction project.

“It really gives me confidence that the construction happening at Yampa Valley is something I understand,” Booth said. “I can speak the lingo with the contractor and understand what challenges they have.”

Asked if he was comfortable with taking over management of YVRA months after the position of assistant airport manager was eliminated, Booth said he understands the “dynamics” of that cost-saving move.

“I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with my predecessor," former YVRA manager Dave Ruppel, Booth said. “We talked about his background and mine and compared qualifications. His experience there was purely positive, and he played a big part in reinforcing the interest I already had in the job.”

Booth’s hiring will become official Tuesday when the Routt County commissioners approve his salary. Commissioner Doug Monger served on the interview committee along with Steamboat Springs City Manager Deb Hinsvark, Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association CEO Jim Clark, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Chris Diamond and Local Marketing District Board President Chuck Porter.

Sullivan said the vote to offer the position to Booth was unanimous.

Booth said that although ski season is the busiest period of the year at YVRA, he is interested in developing the airport’s potential beyond ski season.

“The location-neutral folks rely on the ability to get in and out” of the valley, he said. “The airport certainly has the capacity to do more than it’s doing now.”

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