Airport director to leave Stockton

Oct. 6--STOCKTON -- Barry Rondinella, director of Stockton Metropolitan Airport since 2001, announced Friday that he will leave that post later this month to take an executive job with Sacramento County's airports.

"I'm really pleased to have been here, and I'm going to miss everything a lot, especially being part of what I believe is sizable growth in the near future," he said Friday afternoon.

However, after more than six years at the airport's helm, Rondinella said, "It just seemed like it was time."

His tenure with the San Joaquin County-operated airport has been marked by ups and downs.

Rondinella started Feb. 27, 2001, one day before America West Airlines launched three-flights-a-day service between Stockton and Phoenix. It lasted a little more than two years as the airline and its entire industry struggled though a recession in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

He oversaw construction of a 10-acre, $6 million cargo apron that opened in early 2004, only to see the facility's sole customer depart after the carrier merged with UPS.

Rondinella also spent years shepherding a proposed customs station, intended to accommodate international passenger service, through federal bureaucracies only to have his own bosses -- the San Joaquin County supervisors -- reject the plans on a 2-to-3 vote in March. Two of those no votes came from supervisors who joined the board in January, and thus were not in on the August 2005 launch of efforts to bring Aeromexico service to Stockton.

The airport director also welcomed the arrival of leisure-travel specialist Allegiant Airlines in June 2006. From an initial three flights per week, the low-cost airline now has five flights a week from Las Vegas to Stockton and beginning Oct. 26 will offer two flights a week to Phoenix.

County Supervisor Steve Gutierrez, a staunch supporter of the customs station, said he was pleased for Rondinella on his new job.

"I'm saddened that he's leaving because I thought he did an excellent job under difficult circumstances," he said Friday. "Our loss is Sacramento's gain."

Not everyone will share those feelings, suggested Doug Clayton, president of Aero Turbine, a jet engine accessories, overhaul and maintenance business at the airport.

"He had a tough act to follow, particularly the tenants at the airport really liked (former airport manager) Dan DeAngelis, and the circumstances the airport was in the last several years made that job very difficult. So it's been tough for Barry to win people over," Clayton said.

"There's definite improvements you can attribute to what Berry's done, but there's still a long ways to go," he added. Much more could be done to bring additional air-related businesses and cargo traffic to the airport.

Gutierrez would applaud such improvements.

"What I would like to see is air cargo is something we need to do and international flight service," he said.

He noted that much of the groundwork to bring such service to Stockton had been done.

"Barry brought us to the table. That was a lot of work that has been done," Gutierrez said. "At this point it's a matter of political will, purely political will."

Rondinella said he leaves the airport operation in good hands with a strong staff.

Steven Hicks recently joined the county as deputy airport director.

Gutierrez said he would like to see a wide-ranging search for a new airport director, but certainly would consider local applicants as well.

Rondinella's resignation becomes effective Oct. 28. He is due to begin work Nov. 1 with the Sacramento County Airport System as deputy director of operations. He will help oversee airfield operations at Sacramento International, McClellan, Mather, Sacramento Executive and Franklin Field airports.

A Sacramento Airport spokeswoman confirmed Rondinella's appointment Friday, but said the agency would not issue a statement until around the time he starts.

Contact reporter Reed Fujii at (209) 546-8253 or

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