As a native CHamoru, Artemio Ricardo “Ricky” Aguon Hernandez, Ph.D., IAP, was raised on the concept of “inafa’maolek.” The literal translation is “to make” (inafa’) “good” (maolek).
Hernandez views serving as the deputy executive manager for the Guam International Airport Authority (GIAA) as a daily opportunity to improve the quality of life for his community and all those who visit it.
“While ensuring safety and security is our utmost priority, we are also continuously improving customer experience from curbside to cabin,” said Hernandez, who is Guam’s first and only International Airport Professional (IAP) having completed the ICAO/ACI Airport Management Professional Accreditation Programme in 2021. “This service to the public would not be as rewarding without the outstanding staff and management of the GIAA — professionals who commit to quality service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Their exceptional efforts make my job that much easier and infinitely more enjoyable.”
Previously, Hernandez served as the deputy administrator for Guam Economic Development Authority. In this role, he was heavily involved in the island’s medical and health response as well as economic recovery efforts relative to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this work, he was appointed to the Governor’s Recovery Panel of Advisors, comprised of medical professionals and business leaders. While continuing the response and recovery efforts, he was hired at Guam International Airport, also known as Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport (GUM).
Early on, as a young accountant and auditor, Hernandez never thought the aviation industry would be such an impactful part of his career trajectory. Nonetheless, at the airport, he has used his skills obtained through experience and education in not only accounting and auditing, but also government budgeting, finance, management, and administration.
As a FAR Part 139 airport, the Guam airport heavily relies on travel by visitors from Japan and Korea as its main source of revenues. “As one of the remaining international U.S. airports lagging in recovery due to reliance on these source markets in Asia, we have had to become creative and flexible in how we have operated — reducing operating and maintenance expenses to the lowest level in over a decade, while still keeping the airport open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and through creative debt refinancing and restructuring.”
One innovative strategy, the restructuring over $140 million of debt, led to reducing pandemic-impacted years’ debt payments by tens of millions of dollars, allowing for operational continuity and flexibility while there was continued uncertainty in air traffic recovery. In Fiscal Year 2021, with continued depressed air traffic, the Guam Airport responded by spending the least amount in operations and maintenance expenses in over a decade while achieving a clean audit and low-risk auditee designation over federal funds management.
In addition to his work at the airport, Hernandez serves many roles. He is an adjunct instructor of accounting and public administration at the University of Guam (UOG), treasurer and investment committee chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Government of Guam Retirement Fund, treasurer of the Guam Commission on Lawyer Regulation, and one of the longest serving board members of the Research Corporation of the UOG. He is a Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM), Guam’s first Certified Public Procurement Officer (CPPO), and an Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF).
One of his personal philosophies is “You should leave something better than you found it.”