Airport board hopeful faults panel’s credibility

A Colorado Mesa University official who previously headed Victorinox Swiss Army Inc. told Mesa County commissioners that Grand Junction Regional Airport is suffering from a lack of credibility.

Rick Taggart — who led Victorinox Swiss Army Inc. from 1995 to 2001 and in the process took the company into private hands after being publicly held — is one of three applicants for the open seat representing the county on the seven-member Airport Authority board.

The FBI raided the authority’s offices in November and the board later suspended, then fired, the director of aviation, Rex Tippetts.

No arrests have been made and the case remains under seal.

“The perception (of the Airport Authority) out there is not as good as I think you folks would like it to be,” Taggart told the commissioners.

Taggart is now the executive director of marketing and student recruitment at CMU.

The board in the meantime changed the designation of the building under construction at the airport to recognize its administrative purpose and in the process turned back money granted by the Federal Aviation Administration for its construction as a terminal building.

The FAA has a one-year moratorium on discretionary grants to the airport and listed it as a “moderate” risk for grants.

“I’m adept at digging into balance sheets, income statements and cash-flow statements,” Taggart told the commissioners on Tuesday, noting that he has much to learn about the problems facing the Airport Authority.

Though most of his experience with the airport has been with commercial aviation, he hoped to gain a better understanding of the contribution of general aviation to the airport, Taggart said.

Previous airport boards have been criticized as “rubber stamps” for Tippetts, with some meetings lasting as few as 15 minutes on major projects.

In his corporate career, Taggart said, he had occasion to urge directors to whom he answered to question him closely on matters like financial reports. He also said boards shouldn’t be reduced to factions.

“A board ceases to be effective when it’s polarized,” Taggart said.

As a member of the board, he would be an active participant and free to devote the necessary hours to the job, Taggart said.

In addition to corporate experience at Victorinox and Marmot Mountain Works, he also has served as a chairman of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership.

The county is hoping to make the appointment on Feb. 10, in time for the new member to attend the next airport board meeting on Feb. 18.

Two other candidates, Rick Langley and Drew Armstrong, are to interview with the board on Thursday.

The three finalists were selected from among 18 people who applied for the board position.


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