Yellowstone Regional Airport will have a new leader, albeit temporarily, for the next few months.
Ray Lee was approved by a 4-3 vote at the Sept. 28 YRA board meeting to be interim director at the airport until a permanent general manager is found. Lee will be paid $1,750 per week in the role. Board members Bucky Hall, Craig Wilbur, Jack Way and Bob Redmond voted for Lee, while Jordan Jolley, Heidi Rasmussen and Doug Johnston voted against appointing him.
“I believe that my experience with airport administration, general aviation and scheduled commercial air carriers will be invaluable to the YRA,” Lee wrote to the board in his cover letter. “I believe that my success in enhancing the efficiency of boards of directors will be invaluable in enhancing the effectiveness of the YRA.”
He said Monday he is not applying for the permanent position.
Lee was administrator for Cody Yellowstone Air Improvement Resources from 2012-2017, prior to current administrator Hall taking over. He was also on the YRA board from 2003-2006; the Wyoming Aeronautics Commission from 2009-2011; the Board of the Wyoming Pilots Association from 2012-2014.
A private aviator, Lee also pilots for his wildlife consulting business, and recently purchased one of the new hangars being built at the airport.
Lee will be replacing YRA General Manager Bob Hooper, who retired from the airport on Sept. 30.
Immediately after an executive session and prior to approving Lee, Johnston made a motion to appoint Bruce Ransom, YRA general operations manager, and Lisa Stott, airport office manager, as co-directors for the interim.
“It’s in the airport’s best interest to hire staff members that are already in place and understand the operations of this airport,” Rasmussen said. “It’s also a massive financial savings to the airport.”
This failed with a 4-3 vote that followed the same split as the vote to approve Lee.
“I feel we just need a decision maker in that position and I have the utmost respect for Bruce and Lisa in their ability to do the job but I’m just concerned,” Hall said about his vote against the two current employees. “It appeared that neither one of them really wanted to step forward and do it on their own.”
In addition to Lee’s $7,000 monthly salary, the airport will also be paying ADK Consulting and Executive Search around $22,000 to help the airport find a new director.
“I don’t think the constituents of Park County would be very interested in us hiring an interim director for such a short period of time, 3-4 months, for anything in the neighborhood of $2,000 per week,” Rasmussen said. “That is not a good use of public dollars.”
Private aviator Harold Musser and Todd Simmons of Choice Aviation agreed and said Stott and Ransom should be in charge.
“It frightens me,” Simmons said. “It causes me to question the integrity and professionalism and stability of the board.”
Rasmussen said there is strong public interest for setting up a search committee to help find a new, permanent director. This was verbally approved at the meeting and she, Hall and Johnston will be joined by yet to be determined members of the public for it.