County focuses on standout candidate for airport manager | SteamboatToday.com

County focuses on standout candidate for airport manager

— When the top candidate to replace Dave Ruppel as manager of Yampa Valley Regional Airport comes to town Dec. 18, he'll be arriving just in time to see some of the inaugural direct jet flights of the ski season.

"I'm on track," County Manager Tom Sullivan said Monday. "We've got interviews scheduled Dec. 19, I have a search committee in place, and I'll have a phone call tomorrow with what I consider to be the top option."

Sullivan said Monday that among 19 resumes he received from candidates for the post, one from Colorado stood out from the others in phone interviews.

Before that leading candidate goes into interviews Dec. 19 with representatives of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. and the city of Steamboat Springs, he will have an opportunity Dec. 18 to witness the airport staff ramping up for the busy season as flights from Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and Los Angeles are expected to land at the airport in Hayden that day.

"He'll be coming in right in the middle of winter operations with an opportunity to understand what the projects are, and go over to (general aviation fixed base operator) Atlantic Aviation and meet Pat Burke. I feel like we have a very credible candidate coming out here," Sullivan said.

The county manager said Tuesday's phone call is intended to confirm the interest of the job candidate in coming to Steamboat. Sullivan said he wants to make sure the candidate is comfortable that he can live in Steamboat on the airport manager's salary and that he understands some of the goals of the airport.

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Given the timing of the hire in the middle of the busy ski season at YVRA (the new manager is not expected to be on the job until after Jan. 1), Sullivan said he is sensitive to the need to place a strong administrator in the role of airport manager.

"It's important to the airlines and airport staff, the FBO and our engineering firm,” which is consulting on a major runway paving project beginning mid-April, Sullivan said. "It's important to all those folks."

The last major hire at Routt County, that of a new building department manager, stretched out over seven months after one finalist ultimately turned down the job, and the post had to be re-advertised. However, Commission Chairman Tim Corrigan said he is willing to be patient and find the best fit for the job.

"Like with the chief building official, if we don't identify the right candidate, we'll go back out and take as long as we need to," Corrigan said.

Ruppel, who left in November to take a similar position at Front Range Airport east of Denver, had been at the controls at YVRA for nine years and was accustomed to the peculiar rhythm of a ski town airport that drops to a single roundtrip between Hayden and Denver in late April and May. The flight schedule at YVRA increases to more Denver flights and several a week from Texas in the peak of the summer season, declines again in autumn and roars to life in the third week in December with flights from 10 cities including Washington/Dulles and San Francisco, which are new this year.

Even within ski season, Friday, Saturday and Sunday are busier than the rest of the week as Ski Corp. executives, in consultation with a public board that advises City Council on the use of tax dollars to underwrite flights, adjusts seat capacity at YVRA to meet periods of peak demand.

Steamboat Springs City Manager Deb Hinsvark, County Commissioner Doug Monger, Chamber CEO Jim Clark, Ski Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Chris Diamond and retired hotel executive and chairman of the Local Marketing District Chuck Porter are among those who will interview with the candidate for the YVRA job Dec. 19.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1