Mayor Hancock Nominates Phil Washington as CEO of Denver Airport

Published on June 07, 2021

Mayor Michael B. Hancock today nominated Phil Washington to be the next CEO of Denver International Airport (DEN). Pending City Council approval, Washington will take over from current CEO Kim Day, who will be retiring in July after 13 years leading the airport. Washington most recently led Los Angeles County’s regional transportation authority and before that he headed up metro Denver’s Regional Transportation District.

“Given the important role the airport must play in our post-pandemic recovery, and with the departure of Kim, our airport needs a leader who can step into this space and hit the ground running without missing a beat,” Mayor Hancock said. “We have found that leader, and today I'm proud to announce I am nominating Phil Washington to be the next CEO of Denver International Airport, and to welcome him back to Denver.”

Mayor Hancock said the airport’s current success is attributable to Day’s visionary leadership.

“I can’t praise Kim Day enough for the job she’s done at DEN, and for the partnership we’ve had since I was on City Council,” the Mayor said. “She has had one of the most successful tenures leading a major international airport anywhere in the country, and I want to thank her for her dedicated service to our airport and to our entire city.”

Washington returns to Denver after six years as CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority – the lead transportation planning, programming and financing agency for Los Angeles County and one of the largest transportation departments in the United States.

As LA Metro’s CEO, Washington managed a balanced budget in excess of $8 billion a year, was responsible for overseeing between $18- $20 billion in capital projects and provided oversight of an agency with 11,000 employees that transports 1.2 million boarding passengers daily on a fleet of 2,200 clean-air buses and six rail lines.

Under his leadership, Los Angeles passed Measure M in 2016 with 71.15 percent voter approval, one of the largest local transportation funding efforts in American history. During his time with LA Metro, Washington was also engaged in all facets of transportation and infrastructure in LA County, including aviation, goods movement, freight/railroads, water, public works, housing and Transit-Oriented communities (TOCs).

“I’m honored to be nominated for this role by Mayor Hancock, and excited to have the opportunity not only to return home, but to lead one of the premier airports and airport teams anywhere in the world,” Washington said.

“Phil Washington is this country's finest transportation professional. We wanted him to lead LA Metro because he had led the most innovative and largest construction program in the country the last time he worked in Denver, and it's only fair that Denver gets to benefit from his excellence once again,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “In L.A., Phil oversaw the largest infrastructure program in the United States and pioneered groundbreaking initiatives to address climate change, increase economic opportunity, and expand free transit. I've always known the sky's the limit with Phil, and Denver International Airport will be in the hands of a proven leader and powerful innovator in Phil Washington.”

From 2000 to 2015, Washington served as Assistant General Manager (2000-2009) and General Manager and CEO (2009-2015) for metro Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD).

As General Manager of RTD, Washington led and implemented the FasTracks program, one of the largest voter-approved transportation expansion programs in the country at the time. Under his leadership, Denver’s West Corridor Rail Line project was completed under budget and eight months earlier than scheduled, and the award-winning Denver Union Station project was completed five months early and has become the vibrant hub of Denver’s lower downtown neighborhood. Washington also implemented the nation’s first and only $2.2 billion transit public-private partnership (P3), resulting in the University of Colorado A Line, which opened in 2016.

“I want to commend Mayor Michael Hancock for the nomination of Phillip Washington as the new CEO of the Denver International Airport. Phil is a well-known visionary and vigilant transportation professional to those in Denver and across the nation,” said former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Rodney Slater. “He is the former head of the RTD and he was the head of the Biden-Harris Transportation Transition Committee, an experience that should pay dividends as he seeks to direct Denver International Airport to yet higher heights and to position the airport as a model for infrastructure investment in the future.”

“Phil Washington’s extraordinary integrity, creativity, and ability to lead community vision will serve the Denver region’s transportation system and airport, and more importantly its people, well,” said Therese McMillan, Executive Director of the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Commission and former acting Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration.

As part of the Biden/Harris transition, Washington led the transition’s transportation team, helping review and set the policy agenda and procedures of the U.S. Department of Transportation for the then incoming Biden Administration. In 2012, former President Barack Obama named him a White House Transportation Innovators Champion of Change. In 2009, he was appointed by then-Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter to serve on the State of Colorado’s Workforce Development Council to help the state create a 21st century workforce. And, in 2007, he was appointed by then-Mayor John Hickenlooper to head the Host Transportation Committee for the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

As CEO, pending confirmation, Washington will manage the third-busiest airport in the U.S. and one of the top 10 busiest airports in the world. With 69 million passengers traveling through the airport in 2019, DEN is one of the busiest airline hubs in the world’s largest aviation market. DEN is the primary economic engine for the state of Colorado, generating more than $33.5 billion for the region annually. DEN has become one the largest domestic networks, growing from 170 nonstop destinations in 2018 to 214 in 2019, including international cities such as Tokyo, Paris, Zurich, Reykjavik, and Panama.

To support Denver’s recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic, through the city’s economic recovery plan, the Hancock Administration will leverage the economic power of Denver International Airport. Washington will oversee an airport leadership team that is preparing a continued investment in DEN’s world class facilities and infrastructure, boosting customer experiences, improving safety for all passengers and harnessing its global competitiveness. And in the coming months, the airport will also execute on plans to develop expanded partnerships with the airlines and concessionaires.


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