City Manager Erik Walsh announced Thursday that the chief operating officer for Houston’s airports has been selected to fill the role of aviation director when Russ Handy departs at the end of the year.
Jesus Saenz, a 24-year veteran of airport management, has led operations, maintenance, safety and security, budget management, and capital improvement programs for Houston Airports, which oversees George Bush Intercontinental Airport, William P. Hobby Airport, and the Houston Spaceport. He will start in San Antonio Feb. 3.
Saenz told the Rivard Report the job is an opportunity to join “an amazing team in San Antonio, with a city that’s full of diversity and culture and heritage, and the opportunities that present itself with [San Antonio] being a growing city in the region.”
Saenz will be responsible for overseeing phase two of the Airport System Strategic Development Plan, which guides the City’s decisions regarding future terminal and airfield expansion, as well as the airport concessions contract and a near-term expansion of the airport.
“I look forward to working with everyone that’s been involved with that strategic master plan to ensure that we come to consensus and put something together that that’s going to be in fact impactful and benefit not only the airport … but more importantly, the overall community of San Antonio as well.”
The Houston airport system recorded close to 60 million passengers in 2019, said Saenz, noting that gives him the experience needed to understand the importance of airport development.
“So I look forward to engaging in those conversations and working with everyone to ensure that we remain competitive, and that the growth and development continues,” he said.
The San Antonio International Airport is on pace to record 3 percent to 4 percent more passengers this year than the 10 million it saw in 2018, according to a report released in early November.
“Recruiting a director of the caliber of Jesus speaks to the trajectory of the airport,” said Walsh. “He will lead a talented team focused on completing the Airport Master Plan, continuing the great progress on growing nonstop service from SAT and enhancing the customer experience so that passengers know and feel they are in San Antonio.”
Saenz was born in Laredo but has resided in Houston most of his life. He is married with two children.
The City of San Antonio’s pay plan for fiscal year 2019 shows the annual salary range for the aviation director position is $151,028.02 to $241,645.04.
When he begins work, Saenz will have a new assistant airport director. Walsh on Thursday promoted Mookie Patel, chief administration officer for the San Antonio International Airport, to assistant director. He will oversee implementation of the next airport capital program, among other duties.
Also on Thursday, Walsh also named Alex Lopez director of the City’s Economic Development Department (EDD). Lopez has been serving as interim director of the department since Rene Dominguez was named chief operating officer and president of the Texas Research & Technology Foundation in August.
A City staffer for the last 12 years, Lopez previously served as assistant director in the EDD and as interim chief equity officer. She led the development and management of the City’s Small/Minority/Women Business Enterprise Advocacy program.
“I’m excited to have Alex lead our Economic Development team,” Walsh said. “No one in this organization has done more to help small, minority, and women-owned local businesses secure opportunities to grow their enterprises, and she has an established presence with our stakeholders in the business community. She and her team will focus on developing the workforce and creating job opportunities in San Antonio.”