County Manager Tom Sullivan had difficulty containing his enthusiasm Tuesday after commissioners approved the hiring of David Ruppel as the new manager of Yampa Valley Regional Airport.
"He's definitely, I think, what we're looking for," Sullivan said. "I'm really happy about this. David is positive and forward thinking. He will be hands-on. He will be out on the airport overseeing air operations."
Ruppel (pronounced Roo-pel), 45, recently retired from the Navy and is expected to begin work Monday. Most recently, he was second in command at Naval Air Station Atlanta. He replaces Jim Parker, who was asked to resign in March. The commissioners voted unanimously to approve Ruppel's salary of $83,907.
"I was attracted to the position at Yampa Valley Regional Airport because it's a perfect match for my interests," Ruppel said. "It allows me to combine a lot of skills sets I've used in the last 22 years in my Naval career."
Sullivan said Naval Air Station Atlanta handles Marine and Army, as well as Navy aircraft. The larger aircraft using the air station during Ruppel's tenure were transports, he said.
Ruppel retired from the Navy with the rank of commander. He said he had reached a point in his military career at which he was likely to have to move his family often. A native of Evergreen and a 1984 graduate of the University of Colorado, he said he was looking for an opportunity to move to the mountains and offer his four school-age children a more stable lifestyle.
In addition to a degree in political science from CU, Sullivan said, Ruppel earned a master's degree in strategic planning and decision-making from the Naval War College in 1995.
Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President Chris Diamond, who serves on the Yampa Valley Airport Commission, participated in interviewing Ruppel. He said he endorsed Ruppel's hiring and was excited to have him in the position.
Sullivan said Ruppel's professional background included overseeing a multiyear capital-improvement plan at Naval Air Station Atlanta. He said two commanding officers gave glowing reports about his ability to reach professional goals.
"They told me he would not have reached the rank of commander if he didn't have exceptional team-building skills and had not shown an ability to work with civilians," Sullivan said.
Sullivan acknowledged that in his role with the military, Ruppel did not develop experience working with the Federal Aviation Administration to secure and deliver on grants. However, he is confident that Ruppel has the skills to succeed.
"Getting things done in a timely fashion is a key to maintaining FAA relationships," Sullivan said. "I think David's going to be great at that."
"I worked with other federal agencies in obtaining grants," Ruppel said. "What I found in my research of that issue is that the FAA publishes a superb guide (to the granting process).
"The most important thing is developing relationships with the people at the FAA, understanding their needs and concerns and making sure they know who you are."
The Yampa Valley Airport Commission has set a goal of operating the airport in the black within three years, and Ruppel will be responsible for the fiscal health of the airport, as well.
"I'm familiar with living and working within budgets," Ruppel said. "In addition to airline related funds, we're going to look at other opportunities."
Sullivan said that in addition to his administrative background, Ruppel has flown fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.
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