Former Pocatello Airport Manager says he was forced out of job

Former airport manager says he was forced to resign

POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - In July 2018, Benjamin West was hired to be the Pocatello Regional Airport's new manager. It is a position he would only hold for a matter of months. 

West came to Pocatello after working in operations and as an airport rescue firefighter at Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport in Dickinson, North Dakota. 

Coming to The Pocatello Regional Airport was West's first chance to work as an airport manager, something he said the city knew when they hired him. 

Looking back, West feels that he was set up for failure. 

"Honestly, I felt like, from the very beginning, that I wasn't going to succeed here because I didn't have the city support that I needed," West said. 

West said he asked a lot of questions when he first got here and that the answers generally stated that Pocatello was different and wasn't like Idaho Falls or other airports. 

"But, at the same time, they were comparing us to those airports and wanted us to be like those airports," he explained. 

In October or November, only a few months into West's tenure, he says Mayor Blad told him he was "upset."

West believes this was due to a decrease in the airport's load factor numbers, a calculation that reflects the percentage of each flight's capacity that is filled. The city was looking for something in the range of 80 percent. 

"We did have close to 80 percent with our third flight," West said. But when the airport added a fourth flight things started to change. 

"We went down to the high 60's and low 70's," West explained. "We were doing what we needed to build those numbers back up to 80 percent, but it was going to take time." 

West was confident that those numbers would be back on par with the city's expectations in the course of a year, but it was time he wouldn't get, as the airport would ultimately lose that fourth flight. 

The city expressed disapproval with the load factor numbers, at which point West said he tried to explain that the load factor shouldn't be their focus since passenger numbers were going up. 

In January, West said that Mayor Blad told him he was ready to replace him. West asked for more time, telling the Mayor that six months wasn't really enough time for the "seeds" he planted to bloom.

West said that Blad considered it but wanted to talk to the City Council first. 

"The next thing I knew, he called me on the phone and said that they were sending a police officer out to escort me off the airport, West explained.

"Either I had to resign or they would have fired me at that point. So at that point, I had to write a letter and resign." 

After holding the position for a mere seven months, West looks back on a period of "nothing but positive results" at the airport. 

"Everything from our boarding numbers going up 15 percent, he said."Both our enplanements and deplanements were up. And we were up every month over last year." 

Now, West believes the final straw was losing that fourth daily flight. A decision he believes was in place before he took the position. 

"They probably knew we weren't gonna keep that flight when they gave it to us, back in March of the previous year. The problem was they made the city believe they were going to be able to keep that flight." 

West said that if the city wanted a new manager he would have worked with them to help find a new one, had they given him time to find a new landing spot like he asked the Mayor to do. 

Now, unemployed and in an unfamiliar state, West said he plans to continue following his love of aviation, wherever it takes him. 

West has no hard feelings towards the city, just advice for the future. 

"With their next airport manager, when you hire someone to do a job and you ask them to bring you their understanding and their expertise, please listen to them and please work with them not against them." 

West's final day was March 4. Since then, Kristy Heinz, the management assistant, and Alan Evans, the maintenance supervisor, have been running the airport's day to day operations. 

The City of Pocatello said, "The City does not comment on personnel matters," in an emailed statement Wednesday. 

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