Tony Vicari, who served nine months as interim director of the Durango-La Plata County Airport, has been offered the top job.
“I’m extremely excited to continue in a permanent role,” Vicari said. “It’s a great career opportunity for me and an amazing opportunity for me to really embrace my role in the community here and the role the airport plays, which I think is a very valuable one.”
The airport serves about 375,000 passengers per year on two airlines, American Airlines and United Airlines, which service their airport hubs – Dallas, Denver and Phoenix. The airport, DRO, has an estimated $160 million economic impact annually on the city and county, according to city records.
“It’s obviously a major transportation hub for our region, a major economic driver for the region, and to be able to be in the position to put our entities in the best place possible moving forward is exciting because of the contributions it can make to the whole region,” Vicari said.
Durango City Council is expected to rubber-stamp Vicari’s appointment Tuesday at its regularly scheduled meeting. He will receive an annual salary of $110,000, according to city records.
He replaces Kip Turner, who was hired in 2013 and took a job last summer in Grand Junction.
Vicari said he’ll focus on enhancing air service at the airport, which includes making sure existing routes meet passengers’ needs and courting carriers to develop new routes, which fosters competition, improves service and lowers prices.
“It’s market-driven at the end of the day,” he said. “We don’t just ask and have airlines come in and service us. There has to be a market for it and a monetary reason for them to come in.”
Those factors are driven by the national economy, regional economy, local population and local tourism draw, he said.
“But I envision those all growing ... even if it’s slow,” he said.
Figuring out what to do about an aging airport terminal will also play a significant role going forward.
In November, voters rejected a 20-year property tax that would have raised $40 million to help fund a new terminal, forcing city and county officials to go back to the drawing board to find other solutions for making improvements.
“I think most people will acknowledge the existing terminal has constraints, and we need to figure out how those constraints don’t infringe on air service,” Vicari said. “I would hope in the next five years, hopefully much sooner than that, we have some clarity on where we’re going in terms of long-term build-out here at the airport.”
Vicari, 29, has a bachelor’s degree in aviation science and administration from Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation. He worked for a year as a customer service agent in the Delta Air Lines system in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and worked about four years in the operations department for the Capital Region International Airport in Lansing, Michigan, prior to coming to Durango.
He began his career in March 2014 at the Durango-La Plata County Airport, working as airport operations specialist and airport operations manager. He has served as interim director of aviation since July 2016.
Durango City Manager Ron LeBlanc said Vicari has “unanimous” support from city and county officials. He has earned the respect of airport staff and proven he’s capable of running the airport, he said.
“We’re lucky to have Tony,” LeBlanc said. “He’s an aspiring young professional that is very mature. We’re fortunate that he’s in the right place at the right time.”