Executive Management

Chief Executive Officer, Phillip A. Washington

Phil Washington

Phillip A. Washington was nominated by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and unanimously confirmed by the Denver City Council as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Denver International Airport (DEN) on July 12, 2021. DEN is the country’s 3rd busiest airport and the world’s 7th busiest airport by passengers. The annual economic impact of DEN is $33.5 billion and has 30,000 total badged employees with 22 air carriers and a total of 170 concession locations and more than 190,000 square feet of concession space.

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 in excess of $8 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 and transit-oriented communities (TOCs).

Washington was a key leader in the 2016 successful effort to pass Measure M, a new half-cent sales tax in Los Angeles County (the most populated county in the United States), which garnered 71.15% voter approval. Measure M will allow 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 only end if voters vote to end it.

Washington came to Los Angeles from Denver, where he served as the CEO of 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 $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 2021, under Washington’s leadership of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, LA Metro was named a Top Regional Employer in the DiversityInc Top 50 Employer competition for the first time in the agency’s history. In 2020 and 2021, Phil co-chaired the Biden/Harris Infrastructure Policy Committee and later led (as Captain) the Biden/Harris Transportation Transition Teams. 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. In 2014, he was selected by the editors of Engineering News-Record as one of the Top 25 Newsmakers of 2013. 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. He is also a past chair of APTA and a former member of the Executive Committee of the Transportation Research Board and the Eno Center for Transportation.

Executive Vice Presidents

Chief of Staff, Cristal DeHerrera

Cristal ensures the CEO’s vision is operationalized throughout the airport. She leads airport-wide governance and strategic initiatives, equity, diversity and inclusion efforts and employee empowerment initiatives, including oversight of the team developing the Center of Excellence and Equity in Aviation. She also leads the airport’s strategic partnerships and oversees the airport’s external affairs unit which includes all stakeholders and government relations’ strategies and relationships at the federal, state, and local level. Prior to her time at DEN, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock appointed Cristal to serve as Deputy City Attorney for the City & County of Denver. Previously, she was also a shareholder at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP. Cristal was raised in a humble household outside of the Los Angeles area and holds a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. She received her undergraduate degree, with honors, in political studies from Pitzer College. She and her husband enjoy spending time on their ranch in Southern Colorado with their three children.

Chief Operating Officer, Steve Jaquith

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.

Chief Financial Officer, Sylvester Lavender

Sylvester oversees Budget, Accounting, Capital Planning and Funding, Financial Planning and Analysis and Internal Audit. The key responsibilities include rates and charges, budget planning and management, financial statement preparation, audits on key risk areas, debt issuance, risk management and investor relations.

Chief Commercial Officer, Penny May

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 Operating 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.

Chief Construction and Infrastructure Officer, Jim Starling

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. 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). As the Chief Construction and Infrastructure Officer, Jim oversees Planning and Design, Airport Infrastructure Management (AIM), Sustainability, DEN Real Estate, the Great Hall Project and the Gate Expansion Program. AIM 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.