Houston's Airport System Under New Leadership

Houston Mayor Annise Parker has added another person to her list of hand-picked department leaders. The new Houston Airport System Director is her most recent appointee. Laurie Johnson reports.

Less than four months into her administration, Mayor Parker has appointed a new police chief, city attorney, housing director and five members of the METRO board, including a new chairman.

Mario Diaz is the most recent addition to the list. He'll head up the Houston Airport System, after eleven years as the chief operating officer of Atlanta's airport, which is the world's busiest.

"There I helped to lead a team of high-performance professionals, take that airport to new levels of customer service, efficiency and capacity for the future. And so it's a thrill — it's just a thrill to be able to come back full circle and to be able to take the lead of an airport system once again, knowing the importance that each of these airports plays in serving the needs of the traveling public."

Diaz replaces Interim Director Eric Potts who stepped in after longtime Director Rick Vacar was encouraged to retire by former Mayor Bill White. Vacar's resignation was prompted by questions over his role in airport consulting deals.

Mayor Parker says Diaz is someone who will serve as a bridge between the airports and their largest tenants, Continental and Southwest Airlines, as well as serve the needs of customers. Her charge to Diaz is to make the airport system more innovative and entrepreneurial.

"Mr. Diaz will have to balance the needs of our tenants, the needs of our customers, be responsive to Houston City Council and to me. But also I have tasked him with moving us to be the international airport destination for the future, particularly in Latin America."

The Houston Airport System includes Bush Intercontinental, Hobby and Ellington Airports. All told, about 48 million people travel through the system every year.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...