Manager of Santa Fe Airport Resigns, Citing ‘Lack of Trust'

Aug. 15, 2022

Aug. 13—Santa Fe Regional Airport Manager Mark Baca resigned from his position effective Friday, citing staffing challenges and what he called a "lack of trust, resources and surreptitiousness" from his superiors.

Baca, who worked for the city for 32 years, sent a letter to Mayor Alan Webber this week detailing his reasons to resign and retire. In the letter, he was critical of Public Works Department Director Regina Wheeler and what he called the "nonchalant attitude" of City Manager John Blair and the mayor.

"I was always proud to say I worked for the city of Santa Fe," Baca said in a telephone interview Friday. "I could've retired at 25, 30 [years], but I stayed. And it seems like that doesn't really matter."

Bobbi Huseman, the airport operations manager who has been with the city for 27 years, was named acting airport manager. A listing for permanent airport manager went up on the city's website Thursday. The city thanked Baca for his many years of service and promised to fill the position and other vacancies quickly.

"Filling the airport manager position is a priority and the city will act swiftly to find a highly qualified, new director to take the airport to the next level of professionalism and performance," city spokesman Dave Herndon wrote in a statement. "We are in the process of advertising a number of additional airport positions that we hope will be filled rapidly."

Soon after Baca became the airport manager in 2018, his relationship with his direct supervisors began to fall apart, he said. He asked for a new project manager and a new operations manager to help him do his job more effectively because he often had to assume those roles himself, he said.

The first time he filed a request for those hires, the paperwork was not filled out correctly and sent back to him. When he sent the correct paperwork, nothing happened, he said.

"It just felt like everything fell on deaf ears, like they didn't take me seriously," Baca said. "I've never seen that amount of turnover and empty positions in Public Works in my whole career."

Baca said he thought his resignation could act as a "shock to the system" to create changes.

The airport is in the midst of a $21.5 million project that includes adding a third gate for boarding and arrivals, remodeling counters, making the Transportation Security Administration screening area larger, adding restrooms, rearranging airline offices and replacing the concession stands and entrances.

In the spring, the airport's parking lot expansion project was idling as $1 million in funds remained unused. But Baca said the projects his team was working on are not in jeopardy.

The city said the project is continuing as planned and will not be affected by Baca's resignation.

"We anticipate that the airport and the expansion project will continue to operate in a safe and uninterrupted manner under the direction of Ms. Huseman," Herndon wrote.

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