As I write this I am less than twelve hours away from starting a new chapter in my life as President and CEO of the National Association of State Aviation Officials, also known as NASAO. NASAO is one of the oldest aviation organizations in the United States, having been founded in 1931 before there was any federal/national aviation agency. Coincidentally, I will also be elected the next President of the Aero Club of Washington the following day. The Aero Club was founded in 1909. I love history and tradition and so it is humbling to be involved with both organizations.
NASAO will be my “real job.” Its members are the men and women who run aviation offices in the 50 US states, as well as Guam and Puerto Rico which are US territories. In the American system, state governments have a great deal of responsibility for the promotion of economic growth and commerce. State governments play a major role in transportation policy as well.
From 1986-1990 I held a senior position for the Governor of the US state of Virginia. The Governor for whom I worked, Gerald L. Baliles, made transportation the keystone of his term in office, and he served a year as Chairman of the National Governors Association (among the Governors who elected him to that post was a Governor of Arkansas named Bill Clinton). Indeed, a few years later, in 1993, President Clinton named Gov. Baliles to chair a presidential commission to examine US aviation policy, the National Commission to Ensure a Strong Competitive Airline Industry. The fact that the President named a former Governor to chair what was a very high profile commission is telling. Indeed, the Commission was so high profile nearly all of our meetings were televised nationally. This was a source of some amusement to our European colleagues who were running a similar effort called the Comité des Sages, which was also chaired by a political leader, Herman de Croo of Belgium. The work of the US commission remains the basis for national aviation policy.
In the statement I made when I took the job I stated that states are “where it’s at” in the promotion of economic growth. Members of Congress are normally better known than Governors, but it is state Governors whom voters often hold most responsible for local economic conditions. My new members form an important part of state government efforts to promote economic activity, as well as aviation growth. Many people also think state governments have little to do with the international scene. I believed that when I went to work for the Virginia Governor. How wrong I was. State Governors, in many ways, are important sources of energy and support for open trade policies and international economic engagement.
You might be interested to know that of the six US Presidents who have served during my more than 35 years in the Washington policy community, four of them were state Governors. By contrast, the other two were George H.W. Bush who was the first Vice President to be directly elected President since 1836; and Barack Obama who was only the third US Senator to be directly elected to the Presidency in the last 100 years.
I am very excited to take on this challenge. I will continue to write as I can for New Airport Insider, because I remain convinced that what the aviation industry needs is a new kind of engagement and the participation of new and interesting voices.