in Houston, Texas
Atlanta airport executive Mario Diaz named to head Houston Airport System
Wednesday, Apr 14, 2010, 08:15PM CST
By Steve Miller

The new director of the Houston Airport System will be Mario Diaz, currently the deputy general manager at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airportrather than the incumbent, interim director Eric Potts. Many had thought Potts would get the job, and insiders said that he had wanted the position.

Diaz comes to Houston after spending a little over a decade in Atlanta as part of the team overseeing daily operations of the nation's busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic. Houston's Intercontinental ranks 16th. Diaz also spent time managing properties and commercial development for New Jersey airports.

Mario DiazDIAZ

The decision, announced by Mayor Annise Parker Wednesday morning, ends a prolonged search headed by Paul Hobby under both the previous administration of Mayor Bill White and then Parker.

 

Potts, who will remain with HAS in a different position, had filled in as director since the departure of Richard Vacar, who resigned amidst rumors of discord with Mayor White.

 

Diaz must still be approved by the city council, which is set to discuss his appointment during its April 28 meeting. His starting annual salary will be $200,000 with a car allowance of $161.54 bi-weekly, a spokeswoman for the mayor said. 

 

In addition to his duties as the head of the airport system, if confirmed, Diaz would become chairman of the HAS Development Corp. (HASDC), a nonprofit arm of the system that develops aviation installations in developing countries. That may change, though, after an external audit of the relationship between the HASDC and HAS suggested a mayor-appointed HASDC chairman, presumably someone other than the director.

 

During her introduction of Diaz, Parker addressed the HASDC and its status, saying she would "explore what needs to happen next" regarding the operation.

She said while she was not interested in "killing it off," there were things that worked and things that did not. As far as Diaz' role in the HASDC, "I have not given him any explicit instructions yet."

 

HASDC was featured in a series of stories last year by Texas Watchdog, which sparked wider scrutiny and a city investigation. The development corporation was a Vacar-led team that created offshore business interests attached, at least in name, to the Houston Airport System. It also used HAS employees to do some of that work.

In several instances, public money from the Houston Airport System was spent on travel for the HASDC.

HASDC was forced to reimburse the city between $10,000 and $15,000, as of mid-January. The nonprofit spinoff had spent that airport money trying to drum up business in other countries.

Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

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Comments
bbj707
Thursday, 04/15/2010 - 09:43AM

I have read Mr. Diaz's bio and he sounds like exactly what the Houston airport system needs. I look forward to the improvements and developments he will make in the future. A big hooray to Mayor Parker for her selection in such an important position!!

JDC1026
Thursday, 06/24/2010 - 06:55AM

Wow, I worked at the airport in Atlanta when Mr. Diaz was there. After I moved back to Texas I lost contact with everyone and everything in the ATL... I also hear that his old boss Ben Decosta is also leaving Atlanta. I'm not sure what's going on in Atlanta, but I believe that Mr. Diaz will do a wonderful job in Houston.... I hope the city got his back....

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