Mayor’s Office

Mayor Miro Weinberger Appoints Gene Richards as Permanent Director of Aviation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 23, 2013
Contact:  Mike Kanarick
                802.735.7962

Mayor Miro Weinberger Appoints Gene Richards as Permanent Director of Aviation

Burlington, VT – Mayor Miro Weinberger today announced the appointment of Gene Richards as the permanent Director of Aviation at Burlington International Airport.  Richards, a former Chair of the Airport Commission, has been serving as the interim Director of Aviation since Weinberger appointed and the City Council confirmed him in July 2012.  Weinberger has asked the City Council to approve the appointment at its June 3, 2013 meeting.

“When I appointed Gene as the interim Aviation Director, I did so with great confidence that he would make significant progress at the airport,” said Weinberger.  “Gene has far exceeded my high expectations and succeeded in preparing the airport to fully realize the opportunities ahead.  From his work reorganizing the airport staff to the airport refinancing bonds to creating a much more welcoming atmosphere through new restaurants and concessionaires to opening a nursing mothers room to securing daily Delta service to Atlanta, Gene has worked tirelessly day and night to take our airport to the next level.  I have every expectation that Gene will continue to make tremendous contributions to our airport, our City, and our entire region.”

“My passion for the airport has only grown in the 10 months I’ve been serving as Director,” said Richards.  “I love my job.  I get up every day excited to return to the airport to get more work done for the people of Burlington and Vermont and for our out of state visitors.  I am grateful that the Mayor has entrusted me with the opportunity to serve our airport community and, together with our amazing airport staff team, we’re ready to keep moving forward.” 

At today’s announcement, which took place on the airport mezzanine, Weinberger and Richards were joined by the following City leaders and airport advocates:

  • Jeff Munger, Chair of the Burlington Airport Commission:  “Gene was a dynamo as Commission Chair and has brought the same energy and passion as interim Director.  With this appointment as permanent Director, BTV is headed in the right direction.  The sky's the limit under his command. “
  • Karen Paul, Ward 6 City Councilor and Co-Chair of the Airport Strategic Planning Committee:  “Over the past year, Gene's leadership has been instrumental in guiding our airport, arguably our region's greatest economic engine, to a sounder financial position and restoring relationships with our airline partners and vendors.  Gene's work ethic and the excitement he brings every day to his role at BTV are contagious; he has brought new life to the airport.  Gene will be key to implementing the Strategic Plan due to be released in a few weeks.”
  • Kelly Devine, Executive Director of the Burlington Business Association:  “From a city, state and tourism standpoint, there are many opportunities to leverage the airport's value as an economic development tool.  On behalf of the Burlington business community, I want to thank Mayor Weinberger for focusing on how we can make the most of this vital economic driver.  The Burlington Business Association welcomes Gene’s permanent appointment and shares the Mayor's vision that a much-improved airport will create jobs and help grow Burlington’s economy.”
  • Ann Beland, Burlington General Manager of JetBlue:  “I’ve enjoyed working with Gene in his role as interim Director and appreciate all the improvements he and his staff have made, as well as Gene’s responsiveness in addressing concerns. I look forward to working with Gene and his airport team as JetBlue continues our good relationship with the City Of Burlington and the Airport.”

Pam Mackenzie, Chair of the South Burlington City Council, and Kevin Dorn, the interim City Manager of South Burlington, joined Weinberger and Richards as well.  Weinberger was glad to welcome Burlington’s neighbors to the announcement, stating:  “I really appreciate that Pam and Kevin have joined us today.  The ever-improving relationship between our two cities is a testament to their leadership and offers promise for future productive collaboration to benefit our communities.”

Although unable to attend the announcement, Tom Torti, President and CEO of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, offered the following statement“The Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce is very pleased with the appointment of Gene Richards as the permanent Aviation Director.   Since assuming the role of interim Director, Gene has made tremendous strides to align finances, to vastly improve the customer experience, and to reach out to additional carriers.  The airport is a key economic development tool for the region and the state.  Gene Richards understands this and is working to improve operations on a daily basis.”

Please see attached documents, including:

  • Memorandum from Mayor Miro Weinberger to City Councilors requesting approval of the appointment of Gene Richards as the permanent Director of Aviation at Burlington International Airport (below)
  • Resume of Gene Richards (attached)

###
 

MEMORANDUM

TO:                       Burlington City Council
FROM:                  Mayor Miro Weinberger
DATE:                   May 23, 2013
RE:                        Appointment of Permanent Director of Aviation

Together, last July, we appointed Gene Richards the interim Director of Aviation of the Burlington International Airport.  Gene has flourished in that role, generating progress at the airport on many fronts.  Now, I respectfully request that the City Council approve Gene as the permanent Director of Aviation at your June 3, 2013 meeting.  

Last July, I wrote the following to you in my interim appointment request:

The months immediately ahead represent an important time for the airport.  The airport is attempting to refinance $12 million of short-term debt, stabilize and improve the outlook of credit rating agencies, and increase revenues in multiple ways.  Gene has been a force for change, a person who has driven the improvement of the past 18 months.  He is the right person to run the airport until a permanent Aviation Director is named approximately six to nine months from now.

During the past 10+ months as interim Director of Aviation, Gene has far exceeded my high expectations.  He has worked tirelessly to address long-standing issues, stabilize the airport’s finances through both revenue and expense measures, improve airport facilities, and improve air service.  Gene brings exactly the kind of passion, skills, community understanding, and character needed to succeed as the next permanent Director of Aviation.

Gene has made substantial progress on BTV’s serious financial issues
The airport has been facing a number of serious financial concerns for several years.  In 2010, these concerns caused Moody’s to downgrade the airport to junk bond status.  Gene – an experienced businessman and real estate professional – has been working on many fronts.  His achievements include:

  • Successfully refinancing $12 million of short-term debt and an additional $12 million of long-term debt, addressing significant liquidity concerns, and reducing borrowing costs approximately $300,000 a year.
  • Methodically addressing large numbers of long-neglected and lapsed leases, and restructuring space to create more leasable area, generating substantial new income.
  • Negotiating large revenue increases from rental car tenants, the airlines, and concessionaires.

Restoring the airport’s finances will require airport management to sustain and build on these successes.  A permanent appointment will allow Gene to finish the financial fix he has started so well.

Gene already has completed substantial capital improvements at BTV
In Gene’s short-time at the airport he has dramatically improved the facility:

  • He negotiated deals that have resulted in substantial investments from private partners that have substantially upgraded the airport’s food service facilities, and soon will entail dramatically enhanced retail facilities.
  • In under a year Gene has created a nursing mother room, a yoga facility, scores of new charging stations, and enhanced restrooms.  These enhanced traveler amenities have in large part been achieved, despite acute financial pressures, through creative sponsorships and donations.
  • The north concourse TSA area was expanded to significantly improve the efficiency of the safety screening process.
  • Gene has completed a roof replacement that had long plagued the facility.

The financial and operational success of BTV hinges in large part on facilities, maintenance, and leasing efforts.  Gene’s extensive property management experience will continue to serve him well as a permanent director.

Gene is working hard and making progress stabilizing and enhancing air service
The airline industry was hit very hard by the 2008 recession, and BTV – like virtually all established airports – has experienced significant enplanement reductions in the years since.  Gene is working on multiple fronts to reverse this trend:

  • He and his team secured an important air service grant and used it to secure new daily Delta air service to Atlanta that will begin in June.
  • Even before becoming interim Director of Aviation, as an extremely active Airport Commission Chair, Gene helped secure Porter service from Toronto, the first international service in many years.
  • Gene has worked hard to establish good relationships with the airlines.  Local airline representatives have expressed considerable confidence in Gene’s work.

These efforts should begin to be reflected in rising enplanements in the months ahead.

Gene has dramatically improved the workplace culture of the airport and staff morale
Gene's enthusiasm for his work and “can do” attitude are infectious and are impacting City operations beyond the airport.  Even as an interim Director, Gene has become a leader among the City's department heads.  I fully anticipate that, as permanent Director of Aviation, Gene's positive impact on overall municipal operations will expand considerably.

Further details of Gene’s career can be found in the attached resume.

Thank you for your consideration of Gene Richards as Burlington International Airport’s next permanent Director of Aviation.

###

Press Release Date: 
05/23/2013
City Department: 
Mayor's Office