Airport director Dave Waggoner to retire

By Paul Archipley | Jun 10, 2014
Dave Waggoner, right, and his wife PJ pose last October at a banquet where he was named Airport Executive of the Year.

Dave Waggoner, airport director at Snohomish County Airport for 23 years, is retiring.

Waggoner, who turns 70 in July, said he is ready to turn the page. Although he already has been offered another job, he said he’s ready to enjoy retirement with his wife PJ.

A nationwide search is underway to find his replacement. The Prothman Company in Issaquah is conducting the search for the county, which owns the airport.

Waggoner said applications are due by mid July, and a new director would probably begin in mid August. The job pays between $110,000 and $156,000 annually.

Waggoner would remain through the transition.

“I’m going to stay until I’m no longer of value,” Waggoner said. “But I’m not going to hang on.”

Waggoner oversaw tremendous growth at Paine Field under his leadership.

During his tenure, revenue tripled, the county garnered $85 million in federal grants, and the number of aircraft based at Paine Field jumped 50 percent.

In 2013, the Northwest Chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives named him Airport Executive of the Year.

Widely regarded for his management skills, Waggoner emphasized that any progress made at the airport was due to the hard work of his team.

“The airport is a wonderful asset,” Waggoner said. “But few things were accomplished by one individual.

“It takes people at all levels to make it work.”

Although hesitant to point to any one accomplishment, Waggoner said he was pleased with the continuing improvements that have been made over the past two decades.

Among those he cited were the opening of the Future of Flight, the Dreamlifter Operations Center, the smooth transition from Navy housing that was made without hurting 65 families living there, the successful construction of some 500,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space built by Capstone Partners on Paine Field property, and other projects.

Waggoner said many accomplishments were of the variety that the public never sees, such as upkeep and expansion of the roads and runways, lighting upgrades, installation of security systems, improvements in sewer and stormwater systems, and other infrastructure.

He said staff would be able to help the new director transition into the job.

“We have a very talented staff,” Waggoner said. “We don’t have much backup. We’re lean and mean.”

He said being airport director meant that, at times, people would be unhappy with him.

“I can’t stop the planes from flying,” he said, “when people are angry about noise and overflights.

“But at least I can communicate with our neighbors.”

If any one issue caused Waggoner grief, it arguably would be the ongoing battle about opening Paine Field to commercial passenger service.

That issue likely will be a headache for the next airport director, too.

But that person will be taking over a solid operation, Waggoner said.

“I don’t have any regrets,” he said. “I think I’m leaving an organization that’s in good shape financially.

“My wife asked me, ‘Are you going to be able to walk away from this?’”

A one-time Navy pilot who served 26 years, including a stint as commander of NAS Whidbey, Waggoner said veterans know to walk away when the job is done.

“I don’t have any regrets,” he said. “I’ll have a lot of fond memories.”

Waggoner said he will be heading south for a couple of months of R&R.

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