Wichita Eisenhower National Airport and Col. James Jabara Airport are under new leadership. This roving reporter met with Jesse Romo, the new Director of Airports, to learn a little bit about him.
Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up, where did you attend college, and what was your major? How did you get involved in aviation, and how did you end up in Kansas?
I’m a native Californian, born and raised in LA, but I’ve been calling Kansas home for the past 16 years. As a long-time pilot and lifelong avgeek, I’m super excited to be in Wichita – the Air Capital of the World. As far as educational and professional background goes, I had a bit of a circuitous path to airports. After high school, I got my pilot’s license and started working. It wasn’t until later that I enrolled in junior college and attained an associate of arts degree on my way to transferring to UCLA. After I completed my undergrad studies I went back to work, but this time in managerial roles. Like many other people, 9/11 had a profound impact on me. Once our national aviation system was shut down, I knew I wanted to get involved but wasn’t sure how. I ended up going to grad school at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL. I finished the degree online when I went to go work at the Burbank airport (BUR). From BUR I went to work for KDOT and started in the Office of Management and Budget before transferring over to the Division of Aviation, where I eventually became the state aviation director. Lastly, prior to ICT, I was the Airport Director for the Manhattan Regional Airport (MHK).
My degrees vary as much as my work experience. I have majors in Liberal Arts, Sociology, Business Administration, and a specialization in Human Resource Management. Overall, I have over 20 years of managerial and leadership experience, and I’ve been able to teach several courses at Baker University and Kansas State University. Classes that I’ve taught include critical Thinking, Management & Leadership, Conflict Management & Dispute Resolutions, Cultural Differences, Organizational Behavior, and I’ve even taught a few airport management courses.
Why did you want to work at ICT?
Wichita is the Air Capital of the World, how could I not want to work here? As an aviation guy, it’s amazing to be here and to be a part of its history. And for anyone wanting to learn some history on the industry, Greteman Group did a fantastic job of creating historical displays in our terminal. It gives you a sense of the industry giants that have come before us and paved the way for our industry.
What goals do you have for our airports?
I get asked this question quite often. First, the goals I have for the airport don’t always come from me. Lots of our goals come from our stakeholders and community. When we’re looking at our decision-making, whether it’s a development project or something else, I believe we need to make sure what we do is good for both the airport and for the community. This is why outreach and relationship development are very important to me.
What is your favorite pastime?
My first two loves in life were airplanes and baseball. Of course, growing up in LA I was a Dodger fan. Still am. I look forward to catching a Wind Surge game at Riverfront Stadium. There’s just something about baseball’s opening weekend and how it coincides with the changing of the season. I love it. I also enjoy being outside, whether it’s yard work, bike riding, or just walking a trail.
What is your favorite food?
I have some food allergies so I’m difficult when it comes to food. However, I still can enjoy Mexican, BBQ, and a good steak. I love the smell of a rib eye on a charcoal grill.