Colorado Public Works Journal, Winter 2024

14┃ Colorado Public Works Journal Among the many varied types of built environments required by modern life, airports are exceptional for combining the most sophisticated aspects of many other kinds of infrastructure into a single situation. Part public transit hub/part economic pavilion, airports leverage virtually every design and building discipline, product, technology, or persuasion that exists in one way or another while also serving as a regional catalyst for the population served. For those charged with managing public airports the responsibilities are just as varied, and the challenges are never-ending. Like her peers in aviation infrastructure everywhere, as the Executive Director of the Grand Junction Regional Airport (GJT), Angela Padalecki finds the thrill of making it all work exhilarating. “They say: Once you get jet fuel in your veins, you never get it out,” says Padalecki. Though she admits to a circuitous route to her present position, in aviation she finds a little bit of everything. She started her career as an economist working for the U.S. Department of Commerce in both Washington D.C. and San Francisco. She caught the fever for flight when she took a role at Denver International Airport (DEN) in 2013, and she’ll never let go. “Aviation is highly engaging, high-stakes work, yet there is a genuine lightheartedness about the people involved, which makes it fun. Airports are team sports; nothing happens alone.” As Colorado’s largest city on the western slope and the approximate mid-point between Denver and Salt Lake City, in many ways, Grand Junction finds itself something other than urban but no longer quite rural anymore. The juxtaposition is evident at the airport. “Grand Junction Regional Airport serves about 500,000 passengers a year while facilitating close to 200 flight operations a day,” says Padalecki. “We have a good mix of commercial aviation and general aviation and serve as the home to the region’s largest private employer, West Star Aviation, an aircraft maintenance and overhaul business that employs about 600 people. The airport also has a wildland firefighting base and a Twin Otter facility.” Team Spo in the air and on the ground, it takes a by Sean O’Keefe