Denver International Airport CEO Phil Washington is set to be announced within days as President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Federal Aviation Administration, according to a Seattle Times report Thursday.
If he is nominated as FAA administrator and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Washington would depart DIA roughly a year after he started as its top leader last July.
The Times’ report is sourced to two people familiar with the White House’s deliberations. DIA spokeswoman Stacey Stegman referred questions about the potential nomination to the White House, which did not immediately return The Denver Post’s request for comment.
Washington is a U.S. Army veteran with an extensive background leading transit agencies, including the Regional Transportation District in metro Denver and L.A. Metro in Southern California. But when Denver Mayor Michael Hancock appointed him to the DIA job, he brought no direct aviation experience.
Washington does have ties to the Biden administration, having led its transportation team during the presidential transition in late 2020 and early 2021. The team recommended policies related to all transportation agencies, including the FAA.
The Times’ report speculates that Washington’s background may be seen by the Biden administration as an asset as the FAA has fought perceptions it is too friendly with the industry it regulates. Lax oversight was among factors cited in investigations of the lead-up to crashes by new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in recent years.
Washington was chosen by Hancock with the idea the appointment likely would last only about two years, since a new mayor will be elected by Denver voters next spring. If Washington leaves DIA sooner, Hancock could try to appoint a new short-term CEO or elevate an interim leader until a new mayor, set to take office in July 2023, makes a longer-term appointment at the airport.
The airport CEO’s salary, recently increased by the City Council, is $346,975 a year, making it the top-paid mayoral appointment.
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