Mayor Mike Johnston names leaders for Denver airport, human services

Phil Washington will continue to run Denver International Airport and Denver Human Services will get a new leader if the City Council approves two nominations announced Wednesday by new Mayor Mike Johnston.

The nominations, coming nearly two months after Johnston took office, are his first to fill cabinet-level department positions. Last month, he appointed Denver developer Susan Powers to lead the city’s Department of Housing Stability on an interim basis while he continues to interview candidates for cabinet posts.

Johnston has filled many appointee positions in the mayor’s office to help him carry out his agenda, but his appointments of city charter-required leaders for departments have lagged the pace of his predecessor, Michael Hancock, after Hancock’s first term began in 2011.

Washington took over as DIA’s chief executive officer in mid-2021 under Hancock. His renomination by Johnston comes nearly six months after the longtime transit agency leader and Army veteran withdrew his name for consideration to lead the Federal Aviation Administration under President Joe Biden amid opposition mostly from Republican senators.

Anne-Marie Braga is Johnston’s nominee for executive director of human services. For the last four years, she has worked in the state’s human services department as the director of community partnerships. The Johnston administration on Wednesday touted her work on issues including homelessness, child welfare and food insecurity.

At DIA, which is among the state’s largest economic drivers, Washington has faced challenges such as keeping the long-delayed and now-$2.1 billion terminal renovation project on track, finishing other expansion projects, and addressing long security waits and other growing pains.

The airport, while city owned, is a standalone enterprise that generates its own revenue and does not draw money from the city’s taxpayer-fed general fund.

By next spring, its international flight offerings will expand to 28 cities in 16 countries. DIA, now a major connecting hub, was the third busiest airport in the world for passenger traffic in 2022, but its ranking has been slipping this year as international air traffic continues its post-pandemic recovery.

Johnston also announced that he has hired Suma Nallapati as the city’s chief information officer leading technology services. Nallapati’s experience includes working as the chief digital officer of Dish Network.

The mayor’s office said in a news release that Washington’s and Braga’s nominations are expected to take three weeks to make their way through the City Council appointee approval process.

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