2017 Airport Business Top 40 Under 40: Annie Russo

Nov. 3, 2017

Annie Russo
Vice President, Government and Political affairs
AGE: 38

  • Alma Mater: Smith College, master’s degree in national security studies, Naval War College
  • What is your dream job?: To retire after working in a good job.
  • What person has impacted your career the most?: There were two. First was former Rep. Steven R. Rothman (D-N.J.), who had Teterboro Airport in his district. Second was Bill DeCota, aviation director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who put me on the path to aviation.
  • If I could visit any airport in the world, it would be: Singapore’s Changi Airport.
  • If I could have dinner with anyone living or dead: Singer Billy Joel.

As ACI-NA’s Vice President, Government and Political Affairs, Annie Russo leads the development and implementation of advocacy strategies on the legislative challenges facing the airports industry. She leads efforts to expand support for increasing airport funding, along with forging alliances with industries that benefit from modernizing airport infrastructure, including construction companies, contractors, engineers, financiers, hotels and tourism organizations.

Under Russo’s leadership, ACI-NA’s the Beyond the Runway Coalition has grown to more than 80 industry groups and companies aligned in support of airports having the resources they need to remain competitive and thriving hubs of economic opportunity. The support of these groups has been critical in educating Congress of the importance of full funding for Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants as well as increasing the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) cap.

Russo has worked with airports to provide information to convince their local government officials to support ACI-NA’s efforts to allow airports to become more financially self-sufficient so they can meet their capital needs today and in the future. Her innovative ideas have also been effective in the airport industry’s work to educate Congress on the importance of municipal bond financing.

The challenges of the airport industry, along with the challenges of the political dynamics in Washington, D.C., and on Capitol Hill are what Russo finds most attractive about her job. “Back in 2008, the issue over PFCs on the Hill was tough. We were calling PFCs a user fee while the airlines were calling it a tax,” she explained. “A big accomplishment was how ACI-NA made progress on changing the talking points to where airlines are now calling PFCs a user fee. I’m proud of that, but I think it was a major hurdle. But it changed the debate and helped us on Capitol Hill during an anti-tax environment.”

While given many opportunities to grow, Russo still feels a big challenge in her career is being a young woman, not only in politics but in the aviation and airport industry. “I went to Smith College, which prepared me on how to be on equal footing with male colleagues. In the airport industry, I’m fortunate because I’ve seen other female ACI-NA staffers and female airport directors in my 9.5 years at the association,” she said. “When I was promoted two years ago to vice president, the female airport directors were very supportive of my promotion. They really help other women get higher level jobs in the industry. I’ve seen a lot of support for women and I try to give back as well.”

Russo caught the aviation bug during her days working on Capitol Hill for Rep. Rothman, while working on airport and aviation issues. “When I wanted to leave the Hill, aviation was the first place I looked for a job because I knew I’d be happy doing that,” she said.

Infrastructure issues are what Russo loves most about airports. “I know and see what the work we do on Capitol Hill means to the airports in areas like PFCs, advocacy and Airport Improvement Program funding. You really get to see what your work does,” she said.

The best piece of career advice Russo has received is all about finding balancing in her life. “Find a career that you’re passionate about and love, but also have balance in your life so you can do the best job that you can and also be happy,” she stated.