SLO airport manager takes job in Columbus, Ga.

acornejo@thetribunenews.comAugust 26, 2013 

Travelers enter the terminal at the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport.


Correction: An earlier version of this story listed the wrong date for Richard Howell's last day as general manager of San Luis Obispo County's airport. His last day will be Sept. 27.

Richard Howell, whose last day as general manager of San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport is Sept. 27, will begin work Oct. 1 as director of the airport in Columbus, Ga. Howell, 57, announced his resignation from the San Luis Obispo airport earlier this month, citing personal reasons.

Howell told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer during a telephone interview that he’s “very excited” about the move to Columbus and taking the reins of an airport that has had its ups and downs through the years, with air carriers coming and going. He replaces longtime director Mark Oropeza, who retired in March.

American Airlines pulled out of Columbus in June, with the city losing flights to and from the international airport in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. Delta Air Lines is the sole carrier now.

Howell said of his experience in San Luis Obispo, “When I came here in 2008, American and Delta both pulled out of the market the month that I arrived. So I’ve been there and done that.”

Columbus Airport Commission chairwoman Sherry Goodrum said Howell “rose to the top” of the candidate list because of his past experience and expertise in growing the San Luis Obispo market after American and Delta exited the picture there. Florida-based ADK Executive Search, which specializes in airport management jobs, narrowed the field to 10 and then a final four before Howell’s selection.

Goodrum said Howell’s three-year contract will pay him $125,000 annually. Howell earned $110,000 in SLO County.

Howell has been in the airport industry more than two decades and was hired for the San Luis Obispo airport’s top job in 2008.

Howell leaves as the San Luis Obispo airport moves forward with its plans for a new $25 million terminal and continues to strive for a route to Denver.

The San Luis Obispo airport, served by United Airlines and US Airways, had more than 131,000 passenger boardings in 2012. That compares to roughly 60,000 passenger boardings, or enplanements, at Columbus Airport last year.

Howell, who graduated from high school in Santa Barbara and attended college in Florida, has worked for numerous airports throughout the country, with stops in Waco, Texas, Colorado Springs and Albany, Ga.

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors is in the process of recruiting a successor.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer contributed to this report.

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