PASCO -- Ron Foraker, who has been acting director of the Tri-Cities Airport since late January, has been named to fill the position permanently.
Commissioners of the Port of Pasco, which runs the airport, had appointed Foraker acting director after former longtime Airport Director Jim Morasch was injured in a car crash Jan. 25. Morasch later died of those injuries Feb. 4.
"It was a real honor for me to be named the director of the Tri-Cities Airport after having worked alongside Jim Morasch for more than 30 years," Foraker said Monday.
"The loss of Jim was huge, not only to his family, but to me personally, the community and to all of his friends and partnerships throughout the airport industry."
Foraker will oversee about 20 full-time employees and several part-time employees and a $4.3 million annual budget. His annual salary is $108,000.
"Ron's extensive knowledge of the facility, the aviation industry and the people that make it all work made him the perfect choice to be our airport director," said port executive director Jim Toomey in a prepared statement.
"Ron's calm demeanor and steady professionalism played a critical role during the days and weeks following the tragic loss of Jim Morasch," he said.
Foraker, 59, attended school in Richland and earned a bachelor's degree in aerospace science from Central Washington University in 1976.
After graduation, Foraker said he "just kept coming in and making himself available" to then airport director Lee Richardson.
By the following summer, Richardson offered Foraker a position helping maintain the runway.
"I jumped at it," Foraker recalled.
About a year later, he was promoted to assistant director, a position he has held ever since.
Foraker said the most immediate challenge he will face in the new position is helping the airport expand its facilities to accommodate the growing number of passenger boardings.
The number of passenger boardings soared to 308,000 in 2010, up 20 percent over the 257,000 people who had boarded planes in Pasco in 2009.
Already this year, boardings are up 12 percent over last year, Foraker said. He attributes that partly to airlines adding new routes.
Port commissioners have been trying to address the increased demand as they have been updating the airport's master plan since spring 2010.
Foraker said he expects the master plan, which is a 20-year planning document, to be complete by fall.
The plan already has identified the need to lessen congestion at the security screening area, Foraker said. One plan recommendation is to relocate the rest rooms and small offices near the screening area to widen the screening area.
Foraker said one of the things he is excited about in his new position is the chance to continue to build on relationships the airport has established with others.
"I've always liked working here at the airport," he said. "I certainly like the people who work here."
He said that includes working with representatives of other agencies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration, as well with as the airport's concessionaire, Florentyna's, which runs the restaurant.
Foraker also will work with tenants at the airport's industrial park, an area east of the terminal used by private and business planes as well as leased by various tenants.
He also will work with tenants at the airport's business park. That encompasses70 acres west of the terminal building, including two corporate hangers.
The airport recently held a grand opening for the business park's first commercial tenant. A SunMart gas and convenience store opened there on Argent Road near the intersection of Varney Road about two weeks ago.
Foraker is a longtime member of the Washington Airport Management Association and the American Association of Airport Executives.
He lives in Pasco with his wife, Stacey. They have two children. Drew is a junior at the University of Idaho. Hayley is a senior at Hanford High School and plans to attend college next fall.
-- Kathy Korengel: 509-582-1541; firstname.lastname@example.org