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Executive Leadership


Meet our Leadership Team

Phillip A. Washington

Chief Executive Officer

Meet Phillip A.

Phillip A. Washington, Chief Executive Officer

Phillip A. Washington was initially nominated by former Denver Mayor Michael Hancock in July 2021 and most recently by current Mayor Mike Johnston in July 2023. Phil was unanimously confirmed by the Denver City Council as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Denver International Airport (DEN) both times. In 2023, DEN was the world’s 6th busiest airport by passenger traffic. The annual economic impact of DEN is $36.4 billion and the airport has over 40,000 total badged employees with 25 air carriers and a total of over 200 concessions. Within weeks of Phil’s arrival, he set forth a vision for DEN, Vision 100, that will prepare the airport to accommodate 100 million passengers, a 30% increase in passengers by 2030.

At DEN, Phil oversees a $10 billion dollar Capital Improvement Program (CIP). During his tenure at DEN, Phil has led the resurgence of the airport, i.e., creating an ambitious vision that includes completely retrofitting the airport to accommodate 50 million more passengers than the airport was originally designed for; early planning of a massive 15,000 space consolidated rental car facility and automated passenger mover; pre-environmental work on a 7th runway; opening of 39 new gates and relocation of airline ticket counters; accelerating the construction of the terminal (Great Hall) project; reducing the airport’s carbon footprint by plugging all abandon oil wells and installing more solar panels on property; no deficiencies on the airport’s last three Part 139 inspections (safety); completed the training curriculum and wrapping up design for a one-of-its kind “Center of Equity & Excellence in Aviation” that will introduce young people to the aviation industry and create career pathways for thousands of young people; and most importantly, Phil has created a culture of safety throughout the airport and amongst the 40,000 employees on campus. Phil and DEN broke ground on the center in December 2023.

Prior to Washington’s arrival at DEN, he was the CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) from March 2015 to May 2021. As Metro’s CEO, Washington managed a balanced budget of $8.5 billion, was responsible for overseeing between $18-$20 billion in capital projects and provided oversight of an agency with 11,000 employees that transported 1.2 million boarding passengers daily on a fleet of 2,200 clean-air buses and six rail lines. Metro is the lead transportation planning, programming, and financing agency for LA County. As such, it is a major construction agency that oversees bus, rail, highway, and other mobility-related infrastructure projects – together representing the largest modern public works program in North America. Washington was also engaged and partnering in all facets of transportation and infrastructure in LA County including aviation, goods movement, freight/railroads, water, public works, housing, congestion pricing/mitigation, and transit-oriented communities (TOCs).

Washington led the 2016 successful effort to pass Measure M, a new half- cent sales tax in Los Angeles County (the most populous county in the United States), which garnered 71.15% voter approval. Measure M is allowing Metro to build 40 major highway and transit projects over the next 40 years, create 778,000 jobs and provide $133.3 billion in economic impact for the region. Measure M has no sunset and will end only if voters vote to end it. LA County residents are currently benefiting from the Measure with recent rail, highway, and bus facility openings.

Washington went to Los Angeles from Denver, where he served as the CEO of the Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) between 2009 and 2015. He was previously the assistant general manager of RTD for nearly 10 years before being named CEO. In Denver, Washington led and implemented the FasTracks program, one of the largest voter-approved transportation expansion programs in the country. Under his leadership, Denver’s West Corridor Rail Line project was completed under budget and eight months earlier than scheduled, and the award-winning Denver Union Station project was completed five months early and is now realizing tremendous revenue and value capture from the surrounding development. Also in Denver, Washington implemented the nation’s first and still only operating $2.2 billion rail transit public private partnership (P3), which opened in 2016 and is in operation and exceeding ridership estimates.

Washington has received numerous prestigious assignments and honors. In October 2023, Phil was inducted into the American Public Transportation Association Hall of Fame. In July 2022, Phil was nominated by President Biden to be the next Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator. In 2020 and 2021, Phil co-chaired the Biden/Harris Infrastructure Policy Committee, he was later asked to lead (Captain) the Biden/Harris Transportation Transition Team. In both 2021 and 2019, he testified before the full U.S. Congressional Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was honored with the Eddy Award for Outstanding Leadership in Economic Development and was awarded the prestigious CORO Crystal Eagle Award for a “Legacy of Leadership.” In 2018, he was awarded the Honorable Ray LaHood Award (former U.S. Secretary of Transportation) by the national Women in Transportation Seminar (WTS) for his outstanding contribution in promoting opportunities to advance and advocate for women in the transportation industry. In 2017, he was presented with the Judge Harry Pregerson Public Service Award for his service to U.S. military veterans and was honored with the Norman Mineta Award for exceptional leadership in the transportation industry. In 2016, he was chosen by the National Safety Council as one of the CEOs Who “Get It” – an honor bestowed on CEOs who demonstrate leadership in safety at the highest levels. Washington was also named 2013-2014 Outstanding Public Transportation CEO of the Year in North America by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). In 2012, President Obama named him a White House Transportation Innovators Champion of Change. In 2009, he was appointed by Colorado Governor Bill Ritter to serve on the State of Colorado’s Workforce Development Council to help the state create a 21st century workforce. And, in 2007, he was appointed by the mayor of Denver to lead the Host Transportation Committee for the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Originally from the South Side of Chicago – the housing projects of Altgeld Gardens – Washington is a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Army, where he held the rank of Command Sergeant Major, the highest non-commissioned officer rank an enlisted soldier can achieve. He retired from active duty, is a disabled veteran and was awarded the prestigious Defense Superior Service Medal for exceptional service to his country. He holds a B.A. in Business from Columbia College, an M.A. in Management from Webster University and is a graduate of the Harvard University Kennedy School for Senior Executives in State and Local Government. Phil is a past chair of APTA and a former member of the Executive Committee of the Transportation Research Board and the Eno Center for Transportation. Finally, Phil was recently appointed by U.S. Department of Transportation

Maria Meleandez

Chief of Staff

Meet Maria

Maria Meleandez, Chief of Staff

Maria G. Meleandez is a servant leader who is committed to fostering an inclusive environment that brings people together to achieve results. As the Deputy Executive Officer at LA Metro, the second largest public transit system in the US, she has advanced the implementation of high-impact, community centered, workforce investments.

With a proven track record in strategic leadership, planning and systems integration, Maria convened diverse stakeholder groups in the implementation of Metro’s Training and Innovation Center, a mixed-use capital project expanding economic and workforce development opportunities for residents across Los Angeles County.

Founded in 2022, The SEED School of Los Angeles County (SEED LA) became the nation’s first college-prep boarding school to focus on the workforce needs of Transportation Infrastructure. Representing the founding industry partner, LA Metro, Maria has been pivotal in leading community partners through the development and implementation of SEED LA. She has also led her team in creating innovative expanded learning programs to meaningfully expose and educate students to careers in infrastructure.

At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, she led LA Metro’s recovery efforts, collaborating with the agency’s 19 operating departments to safely guide its 11,000 employees.  Her team developed customized dashboards to accurately capture critical information and facilitate informed, data-driven decision making.

Maria has been instrumental in the creation of nationally recognized workforce development projects, such as Metro’s Career Pathways Program and Leadership Academy. Her commitment to the cultivation of an inclusive culture — in which everyone is seen, heard, and valued for their contributions — has made an impact throughout Los Angeles County.

Prior to joining Metro, she excelled in numerous capacities, leading large-scale programs within education, healthcare, and infrastructure industries.  As a first-generation college graduate, Maria holds a master’s degree in business administration, is a licensed Registered Nurse and Hudson trained Executive Coach.

Steve Jaquith

Chief Operating Officer

Meet Steve

Steve Jaquith, Chief Operating Officer

Steve oversees Airport Operations, Maintenance, Asset Management and Parking and Ground Transportation. Airport Operations is responsible for the safe, efficient and secure operation of the airfield, main terminal and concourses, as well as Airport Security, while being the primary liaison with the Denver Police, Transportation Security Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Customs and Border Protection. Parking and Transportation is responsible for all DEN’s parking lots and transportation services and lost & found operations. Asset Management ensures that DEN is taking care of its existing infrastructure.

Steve brings nearly 40 years of airline experience working in customer service and operations. His most recent role was the Vice President of Airport Operations for United Airlines where he had oversight of a $200 million annual budget and 4,000 employees. Prior to that, Steve served as the Managing Director for United Airlines Denver Hub and Rocky Mountain Region. He also worked for Continental Airlines in a number of different positions.

Mike Nakornkhet

Chief Financial Officer

Meet Mike

Mike Nakornkhet, Chief Financial Officer

Mike is DEN’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and leads a team of over 55 that oversee DEN’s Budget, Accounting, Capital Planning, Grants, Financial Planning and Analysis and Internal Audits. He began his service with DEN in 2021 as Deputy Chief Financial Officer and was appointed to the CFO role in 2022.  Mike’s team is responsible for managing DEN’s annual budget totaling more than $1.5 billion, securing over $150 million annually in grant opportunities, preparing annual financial statements, performing internal audits, and partnering with the City of Denver’s Department of Finance to manage DEN’s $7 billion debt portfolio. Mike recently led the effort to expand DEN’s Capital Improvement Plan to span more than 10 years and capture infrastructure needs that facilitate the Airport’s growth as it ascends towards 100 million passengers. In 2023, Mike was named the Airports Council International North America Finance Professional of the Year for Large Hub airports.

Mike has more than 20 years of experience in the aviation sector including serving as the Managing Director of Finance at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), where he oversaw Capital Finance, Budgeting and Financial Planning & Analysis in delivering SFO’s large-scale Capital Improvement Plan. Prior to joining SFO, Nakornkhet worked for United Airlines, Northwest Airlines (now Delta) and United Technologies Corporation.


Penny May

Chief Commercial Officer

Meet Penny

Penny May, Chief Commercial Officer

Penny manages the Concessions Program, which includes oversight of DEN’s expansive dining and shopping options in the terminal and the concourses. Additionally, the Chief Commercial Officer oversees Business Technologies, which is responsible for technical infrastructure and cyber security as well as Business Operations, which handles contracting and risk management. Airline Affairs and Air Service Development, which maintains the airport’s existing levels of air service while recruiting new airlines and new destinations is also part of the Chief Commercial Officer’s portfolio.

Jim Starling

Chief Construction and Infrastructure Officer

Meet Jim

Jim Starling, Chief Construction and Infrastructure Officer

Jim joined DEN in November 2021 and brings over 25 years of experiencing managed large and complex transportation projects in planning, design, construction and commissioning. As the Chief Construction and Infrastructure Officer, Jim oversees Design, Engineering and Construction (DEC), Sustainability, DEN Real Estate, the Great Hall Project and the Gate Expansion Program. DEC oversees the environmental processes, engineering design and construction management of roadways and runway projects as well as other enhancements. Sustainability is responsible for overseeing all activities at DEN for compliance with environmental regulations, noise management and sustainable practices. DEN Real Estate is focused on developing approximately 16,000 acres of commercial land to accommodate a range of market sectors. At 53 square miles, DEN remains positioned for growth at relatively low unit costs compared to other large hubs in the United States, which will help maintain a competitive cost structure for its carriers while keeping up with growing demand. In addition to develop the 16,000 acres, DEN Real Estate also oversee Commercial Property including the Westin Denver International Airport and Rental Cars.

He previously led several large projects including the Mid-Coast Corridor program in San Diego, the West Rail Line – part of the $6.9 billion FasTracks program and the Transportation Expansion Project (TREX).

Everett Martinez

General Counsel

Meet Everett

Everett Martinez, General Counsel

Everett joined the Denver City Attorney’s Office (CAO) in 2016 serving as an attorney for DEN. In 2020, he was promoted to the Assistant General Counsel at DEN. Everett brings to this role 15 years of experience specializing in complex financial transactions. Before joining DEN, he worked for Kutak Rock as a public finance attorney and spent a decade in the law firm setting, most recently with Greenberg Traurig. Everett oversees a team of 18 attorneys and legal professionals supporting DEN in this position. DEN Legal, a section within the Denver City Attorney’s Office (CAO), negotiates real estate transactions, drafts contracts, secures bond financing, litigates and defends legal claims, and ensures legal and regulatory compliance with federal, state, and local laws on behalf of the airport. He is a graduate of the University of Colorado and Harvard Law School.

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Denver International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world. DEN is the primary economic engine for the state of Colorado, generating more than $36 billion for the region annually. Follow us on socials!