2017 Airport Business Top 40 Under 40: Gladys Diva Brown-Wiggins, CM, MBA

Nov. 3, 2017

Gladys Brown-Wiggins,C.M.
Age: 39
Airport Director
Yuma International Airport

  • Alma Mater: California Maritime Academy/Bachelor of Science Mechanical Engineering) and University Of Phoenix/MBA
  • What is your dream job? Airport director. Prior to being at the airport, my dream was to lead a growing organization.
  • What person has impacted your career the most? My husband. He is such a strong man who has encountered and overcome so much. He has been my supporter and the person who encourages me to step out of my comfort zone.
  • If I could visit any airport in the world, it would be: Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia.
  • If I could have dinner with anyone living or dead: My father. I miss him so much since his passing eight months after I graduated from college in 2002. He would be proud to see how much I have grown and where my career has taken me. 

Gladys Brown-Wiggins became involved in the aviation industry when she came to Yuma International Airport team as operations director in 2009 at age 30. She was responsible for airport security and all engineering and construction at the airport. She became the deputy airport director two years later.

During Brown-Wiggins’ tenure, Yuma International Airport was recognized by the Arizona Department of Transportation Aeronautics Group as the 2015 Arizona Airport of Year. She also won the 2017 Arizona Airports Association’s Airport Executive of the Year and the 2017 Southwest American Association of Airport Executives’ Airport Executive of the Year.

Brown-Wiggins currently serves as the chairman for AzAA’s Legislative Committee, focusing on key issues including protection of the State Aviation Fund from future legislative sweeps. She has designed and overseen the completion of significant improvements within the Yuma International Airport’s terminal creating beautiful and comfortable environments that are enjoyed by passengers as well as efficient work areas for airport employees and tenants.

The interaction with people at the airport every day is what Brown-Wiggins loves best about her job. “I have the opportunity to create the experience that is special to each person who uses the airport and the airfield,” she said. “One of the things I enjoy the most is the opportunity to make the airport uniquely different through creative and innovative ideas molded by the history and community is wonderful.”

“The chance to attract business and customers to the airport is important and I enjoy making it an experience that is unforgettable and something to talk about, from the main terminal where we have commercial air service to the various facilities on the airfield,” said Brown-Wiggins. “I enjoy watching people become fascinated with the amount of work and detail go into the airport properties.”

Her biggest career challenge is the frequency of commercial flights and limitations for air service at regional airports, said Brown-Wiggins. “Air service is one of the multimodal sectors driving economic growth. A new development or business that is site selecting wants to know that their professionals and stakeholders can fly in and out to maximize their time on the ground versus commuting by other modes of transportation,” she explained. “For a regional airport such as Yuma, this is a selling point.”

With smaller aircraft being phased out larger aircraft taking its place, Yuma International has seen the reduction in the number of flights it has, said Brown-Wiggins. “Therefore I watch the leakage increase. My position requires me to think outside the box and do all I can to influence our community and surrounding area partners to use our services,” she stated. “Small rural communities rely and appreciate commercial service to help drive business and leisure traveling.”

What Brown-Wiggins likes best about the aviation industry is its’ evolution and continuous change. “No day is like the previous, every challenge is a little different than prior and there are so many moving parts to the business,” she said. “You can find what you love and it is at an airport or in the industry, from engineering to human resources to facility management to airport operations. The aviation industry has all disciplines to make it successful and to keep up with the time through technological changes to customer driven needs.”

· What is the best piece of career advice you ever received? Never give up on what you believe in, do not compromise your morals or ethics and do not give up on something you worked hard to get. When faced with challenge, try your best to not be discouraged (you have a team who looks to you for the strength to overcome) and always think outside the box. because there is a solution. Look in the mirror everyday and remind yourself you are the leader that will follow in the footsteps of great leaders continuing on making our industry great!