High-flying director: Airport executive excited about possibilities

High-flying director: Airport executive excited about possibilities
Angela Padalecki oversees the operation of the Grand Junction Regional Airport as executive director. Padalecki started in the position Jan. 8 and brings to her duties experience in aviation as well as economics. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Angela Padalecki oversees the operation of the Grand Junction Regional Airport as executive director. Padalecki started in the position Jan. 8 and brings to her duties experience in aviation as well as economics. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Angela Padalecki remembers well a trip to Grand Junction and the exhilaration she felt about a new phase in her life and all the possibilities the future held. She recently returned under far different circumstances, but says she felt the same way. “It was the same sense of excitement.”

Padalecki initially came to the Grand Valley to attend what’s now Colorado Mesa University. She returned earlier this year to start her new job as executive director of the Grand Junction Regional Airport.

Padalecki believes the timing couldn’t be better. An improving economy should boost demand for commercial air service. Renovations are underway at the airport terminal even as work continues on plans to replace the runway. Moreover, she says there’s support in the community for the airport and its role in promoting economic development.

She also believes she’s well-suited to the job given a background in aviation and economics and experience in airport and airline operations as well as business and finances.

Padalecki started working at the Grand Junction Regional Airport on Jan. 8. She succeeds Kip Turner, who resigned in June to become director of aviation at the Eagle County Regional Airport.

Padalecki oversees a staff of 28 and an airport that ranks as the fourth busiest in Colorado in terms of the number of passengers boarding flights and other commercial operations.

Padalecki says she wasn’t actively looking for a new position because of what she says was a “cool job” at the Denver International Airport. In fact, she says she and her husband had just purchased a home. Nonetheless, she says she was intrigued by the position and attracted to Grand Junction and the opportunity to raise her two young children in the Grand Valley. “This is a community I’m really passionate about.”

Padalecki was among 50 applicants for the job and three finalists considered by the Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority.

Rick Taggart, chairman of the board, says Padalecki was selected for her background and problem-solving abilities. “Angela’s background in economics and aviation made her the ideal candidate to lead the airport in its future development.”

Padalecki worked for more than two years as director of airline affairs at the Denver International Airport and led a team that worked with the 35 airlines that regularly serve DIA.

Padalecki previously worked as a senior advisor to the chief financial officer at DIA and as a decision support senior analyst.

She brought to that position her experience as an economist who was a member of the founding team of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and also worked for the Bureau of Economic Analysis and Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

After initially attending what’s now CMU, Padalecki earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Colorado State University in Fort Collins. She went on to earn master’s degrees in economics and finance from the University of Colorado Denver.

Padalecki says her experience and education as an economist has given her a big-picture perspective and has worked well in her jobs in aviation because that industry is affected by the forces of supply and demand just like any other.

In Grand Junction, Padalecki says she’s been impressed by three things: the abilities of the staff, the support of the authority board and an engaged community that’s passionate about the airport. “For me, that’s just a dream come true.”

Padalecki begins work in the midst of renovations that will include a new heating, air conditioning and ventilation system; a new escalator and roof repairs. A covered walkway also is planned for a terminal gate.

An even bigger project is planned as the design proceeds on a new runway that ultimately could replace the existing primary runway at the airport. Given its scope, that project could take seven to 10 years, Padalecki says.

Construction on what was initially planned as a new administration building at the airport remains unfinished. The Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority has requested information about proposals to complete the building for a different use through some sort of public and private partnership, Padalecki says.

In the meantime, efforts continue to build on the commercial air service at an airport that already offers flights to seven destinations, she says. Some trends could work in favor of attracting additional service and routes, although the industry also faces a challenge in a shortage of pilots, she adds.

Just like when she started college, Padalecki says she’s excited about a new phase in her life and all the possibilities the future holds.

The Grand Junction Regional Airport has scheduled an open house to offer information about projects at the airport. The open house is set for 5:30 to 7 p.m. March 6 in the third-floor conference room of the airport terminal located at 2828 Walker Field Drive. The event will offer information about runway construction, terminal renovations and other efforts under way at the airport. For more information, visit www.gjairport.com.