Raul Regalado, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority, will retire on June 30, 2012. Regalado has served in that position since 2001, and has spent more than 40 years in the airport industry. Regalado’s successor, Rob Wigington, will take the helm at MNAA on July 1. Wigington, who joined the MNAA staff nine months ago as executive vice president and COO, was previously deputy director of the Houston Airport System.

In his 11 years at the MNAA, Regalado implemented strategies and processes that have streamlined and improved facilities and services at Nashville International (BNA) and John C. Tune (JWN). Regalado spoke briefly with ARN about his career at MNAA and in the aviation industry, and his plans for the future.

What prompted your decision to retire?

I’ve been in this industry for forty years. A lot of changes have transpired over the years, but the same challenges still exist – safety and security, and airline stability and financial health. You get to a point where you start doing the same thing over and over again, just a little different. I came here 11 years ago from the consulting arena to put together a facility enhancement program and to change the dynamics of the organization.  I have a new leadership team and a leadership development program in place. We use Six Sigma and the Malcolm Baldrige criteria of continuous improvement. And we’ve just gone through a $458M plus airport improvement program. I’ve accomplished what I came here to accomplish and decided that I wanted to do something a little bit bigger.

ARN: What are your plans beyond MNAA?

Regalado: I’ve been blessed to have been able to serve my country, with 29 years in the military and I retired from that. I have served my community and now I want to serve the world poverty arena. I”m going to still do a bit of management consulting, just to keep my toe in the water and my skills sharp. In the area of poverty, I’m on the regional advisory board for Hope International. I have done some micro-financing work with them in Peru over the last couple of years. I’ll probably continue along that vein, looking for other opportunities to address the micro entrepreneurs in third world countries. I also want to stay plugged in to community volunteer work. Then I have my own personal bucket list – those things I haven’t been able to do because I’ve been working too much.

ARN:  Tell me a bit about your successor. Have you been grooming him for the position?

Regalado:  We are a planning organization. We — the board, the chairman and myself — put together a succession plan about two years ago. We created a position of vice president and chief operating officer. I promoted someone who was here at the time, as a holding position, knowing he was going to retire in a year. As we were going through that one-year process we began to look for his successor, who ultimately was going to be my successor. We appointed Rob Wigington about nine months ago. He brings with him a wealth of experience in aviation and in the airport industry, and so he just had to learn about our two airports, our organization and our community.