Pocatello Regional Airport director says he was forced to resign

March 13, 2019 GMT

POCATELLO — The former director of the Pocatello Regional Airport said he was recently forced to resign, despite having spent just over seven months on the job.

Benjamin West assumed the director’s role on July 30, 2018 and worked his last day on March 4. He said he received no severance pay.

The airport’s management assistant, Kristy Heinz, and its maintenance supervisor, Alan Evans, are now assuming added duties. City officials have not yet set a timeline for replacing West but say they plan to start as soon as possible.

City officials declined to comment on West’s resignation, arguing it would be inappropriate to discuss a personnel issue.

West, who has years of experience in the airport business but was serving his first job as a director, said he’s perplexed as to why the city wasn’t satisfied with his job performance. West believes the airport was moving in the right direction.

“I felt they didn’t give me the opportunity to finish what I wanted to do,” West said. “It’s unheard of for an airport manager to resign after seven months.”

At the start of the new year, the city issued a press release lauding airport passenger numbers that “soared to a 10-year high.” According to the press release, passenger arrivals and departures for 2018 totaled 90,661, which represented a 15 percent increase over 2017 and nearly doubled compared with 2009.

“Everything was going great at the airport,” West said. “We were up every single month for 2018 over the prior year. The January 2019 numbers are also up.”

West said Mayor Brian Blad spoke with him about the resignation, but he would have liked an opportunity to make his case to the City Council. He believes Blad and other city officials weren’t impressed by the direction of his strategic plan, which he said he drafted factoring in input from other airport directors.

He believes city officials were disappointed that he failed to add a direct flight to Denver. West believes securing a Denver flight is unrealistic in the near term.

West said the loss of a fourth daily flight from the airport also likely played a role in the decision.

Skywest, a Delta subsidiary, experimented with a fourth flight out of Pocatello in 2018 but removed the flight in November. West explained airlines like to have at least 80 percent of seats on a flight filled with paying passengers, and numbers dipped into the 60s and 70s when the fourth flight was in effect.

West said he’s had a few job interviews and is exploring leads in Washington state.

“We’re working really hard to get hired,” he said.

During his brief time in Pocatello, he and his wife became fond of the community and its residents. He said they appreciated their neighbors in the Highland area, who brought them food and gave them furniture when they first moved into their home.