Welcome to our series, #WHYoming, brought to you in partnership by Kaumo Law.
We are highlighting people from around our communities and asking them a few questions. We want to learn a little about them and see why they chose this great state to raise their families, start their businesses, or simply to ask — Why Wyoming?
This week, I had a chance to sit down and talk with Devon Brubaker, the airport director at Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport. Devon has been the director since May 2015. Devon finds it important and necessary to be involved in the community as much as possible.
In addition to his director job at the airport, Devon is also the president of the Ray Lovato Recycling Center. He is a member of the Sweetwater County Travel and Tourism board, and is the chairman of the Sweetwater Economic Development Coalition.
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Devon, what do you enjoy about being director here at Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport?
The people and the community. Specifically here at the airport, I love working with our team. Internally we have nine employees, including myself, who are dedicated to what we do here. It’s a family.
Our external employees who don’t work with us directly, the airlines, TSA, and the rental cars are all part of the airport family that makes everything happen here. If one of those groups was gone or wasn’t doing a good job, it would impact the whole operation. But we have great people working in those organizations.
On the other side of things, the support we get from the City of Rock Springs, the City of Green River, from the County Commissioners and Sweetwater County is absolutely phenomenal. We very much appreciate it. It makes the job a whole lot easier having that support, both operationally and financially. Knowing the governing bodies support what we’re trying to accomplish, even if there’s no money involved, just knowing we have their backing is great.
The real icing on the cake is that, in Wyoming, airports are funded by the state for capital projects, air service, marketing, and aviation encouragement. There are a lot of great projects that no other state funds like Wyoming does. It makes my job very easy.
From my perspective, this is the sixth airport I’ve worked at, and Wyoming is the best state to run an airport in. All the resources that are available to us make the job a lot easier.
What is your role at the Ray Lovato Recycling Center?
I am the president of the board, and recycling has been a passion of mine since the last airport I worked at, Dayton International Airport. I was responsible for creating a recycling program for a large airport.
I learned a lot about the industry, what you can and can’t recycle, and how to manage a recycling program, so I had the idea that I knew what I needed to know to help run a non-profit recycling center in a small community. I learned real quick that I had no clue what I was doing.
The reason I think the recycling center has been more successful since I’ve gotten involved is just my tenacity that I attack things with. The recycling center has a great board of directors, we have a great staff, and we’re starting to turn the thing around.
It’s like a cruise ship that we’re trying to turn around and it’s a slow process to make that happen. I’m very excited to be a part of that because it’s just an opportunity to give back to the community and to stay involved in the community. The community has given myself, my family, and this airport so much that it’s an opportunity to do something to say thank you and give back.
How did you end up in Rock Springs?
Oh, that’s a loaded story. The airport board hired a head hunting agency that specializes in airports called, ADK Executive Search. I had interview for a couple of jobs with them in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Indiana, and I had finished right near the top, probably second or third.
I was working at Dayton International Airport, and our police chief at the airport sent me a text and said, “Hey did you see the job in Rock Springs?” My exact response was, “Not interested.” I had never heard of Rock Springs and I didn’t know much about Wyoming.
So, I told him no and about a week and a half later, two days before the position closed, I got a call from ADK and they thought I’d be a great candidate for the job and that I should apply. And I said again that I was not interested, but they said they thought I’d be a great candidate and should apply just to help them out.
In my mind, I had this vision that ADK was just digging for candidates. I wanted to stay in their good graces so I said I would get my stuff turned in by the deadline.
They gave me a phone interview, and I remember I told her I really wasn’t interested, and so she told me a few things about the job. They talked about the pay, the benefits, what the community was like, and how the airport was run. So I thought, maybe I am a little interested. So I had another interview via Skype, and then they called me for an in-person interview.
They offered me the job the same day as the interview, and I told them I couldn’t accept the job until I brought my wife out here. So I flew back out to Ohio and me, my wife, and kids drove out here and spent a few days out here.
As we were heading back East on I-80, we were passing the Point of Rocks exit, and I asked my wife, “So can I accept the job?” And she said, “We’re really close to Yellowstone here. If something happened, we’d die.” And I said, “Yeah, but just think, we would die right away, whereas in Ohio we’d still die, we’d just know it’s coming for five days.” And her response was, “Ok, you can take the job.”
Also, Dr. Sigsbee Duck was the chairman of our board at the time, and he and I were the ones doing the negotiations for the contract. Dr. Duck is a very entertaining and very candid person, and he told me how it was a few times when I was asking for stuff in my contract, and just the way he went about it, I thought I could definitely work with that guy.
I oftentimes say Dr. Duck is the reason that I’m here, mainly because he’s the one that pushed the board to hire ADK. When I was named the Wyoming airport manager of the year in 2016, in my acceptance speech, all I did was thank Sigsbee.
What is something unique about you?
It’s not necessarily unique because there are millions of us, but I’m a die hard Cubs fan, die hard Bears fan, and a die hard Penn State Nittany Lions fan. I just love sports, I’m not very good at playing them but I love watching them.
I’ve got five kids, ranging from two years old all the way to twenty-three years old. I stay pretty busy there. My wife stays way more busy. She’s what holds us all together.
I’m probably the only person in Sweetwater County who has a bachelor’s degree in aviation management and a master’s degree in aerospace management.
What are some of your hobbies?
Work. I absolutely love what I do, and a lot of people say that, but I really do mean it. I live and breathe what I do. My job and my family is what I have in my life, and I don’t usually have a lot of time to do anything else.
I love to go to baseball games. I try to make it down to Denver at least once a year for the Cubs and Rockies series, and I’m talking about going to Chicago this year to go to a series at Wrigley.
Outside of that, I don’t have a lot of hobbies. My hobby is what I do every day, I get paid to do my hobby every single day.
What do you appreciate most about our community?
It’s probably the same answer everybody has: the people. I have lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, Texas, Wyoming, so this is my eighth state I’ve lived in, and a lot of different communities in those states, and I’ve never lived somewhere where the community comes together the way that this community comes together.
A perfect example is what we accomplished over the last month with the federal employees. I had a bunch of requests from community members asking if they could do something to TSA. Since we had so many people express their desire to help, I just put it out on social media, saying we can take these certain items, and within 36 hours we had so many donations we had to cut it off.
We still have donations sitting waiting to see if the government does shut back down on February 15, to be able to take care of these people. If it doesn’t, we’ll put all the stuff back into local nonprofit charities in the community.
When individuals have issues, it’s amazing, I see it on social media, the community jumps to help. I lived in big towns like Charlotte, North Carolina, so you obviously don’t have that neighborhood feel there, and I’ve lived in little towns of 2,000 people. Even in those little towns, it was nothing compared to what you find in this community.
If you could give one brief piece of advice, what would it be?
Work hard and knock the doors down yourself. Don’t wait for people to open them for you.
Where is your favorite place to hang out in Sweetwater County?
It would have to be down at the Gorge. Also, Downtown Rock Springs. I know it still has a long way to go, but it’s a beautiful downtown with a lot to offer. I love going to eat downtown with the family.
Would you rather walk, ride a bike, take a horse, or drive a car?
Fly. Sorry, it’s not an option, but I have to answer it that way. Definitely fly.
What would you sing at karaoke night?
Well, I suck at singing, so I would never do that to anybody. But, if I was forced to, it would be any George Strait or Garth Brooks song.
How would your friends describe you?
Too serious. I live and breathe my job and I have fun doing it, but I’m really serious about it, so I’m serious all the time. I’m a very logistical, analytical, and linear person. I don’t have a creative or artistic side, it’s just how my mind operates.
What is one of your proudest accomplishments?
Personally, being a dad is my proudest accomplishment. I pride myself on hopefully being a good dad. Hopefully in 10, 15, 20 years down the road, my kids will think I was, and they’ll grow up being respectful human beings and contributing members of society.
Professionally, it is by far getting my accreditation as an airport executive. Airport employees can go through a process to become accredited, and only 10 percent of all airport employees in the country achieve that.
I’m an airport director at a commercial airport, and there’s only about 400 commercial airports in the country, so I’m one of 400 that get to do this job every day. That’s a pretty cool accomplishment to have a unique job.
Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?
Kevin Costner, because he’s in all the baseball movies. I met him before and he’s a nice guy. Privilege of working at an airport, you get to meet some cool celebrities.
Why do you continue to live in Wyoming?
That’s a long list. The people. On a more practical side, it would be no income tax, a nice retirement program.
Also, the lifestyle. I grew up on the east coast, and it’s nonstop hustle and bustle, you plow over anything that gets in your way. That’s kind of how I have my tenacity built into me, but out here I’ve learned to draw that back and it’s actually made me healthier. It’s more laid back, more relaxed.
You have an opportunity to make a difference in your community here, whereas you can’t do that in the bigger communities. Here, people are busy but they still take time to appreciate what they’ve got.
Me and my family have absolutely fallen in love with this state. I don’t know what the future holds, but I don’t ever want to leave Wyoming.