New Paine Field director has big-airport background

EVERETT — Snohomish County on Wednesday named a new director to oversee county-owned Paine Field.

In his new role, Arif Ghouse will face a host of opportunities and challenges in coming years at the airport.

Paine Field could become home to a national composite material research lab and regular passenger flights. At the same time, the airport has to maintain good relations with neighbors, which include residents and the Boeing Co., and it has to deal with the state’s more-stringent water quality standards.

The county had 59 applicants for the position.

“This guy just rose to the top,” Snohomish County Executive John Lovick said.

Ghouse is currently duty manager at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where he is in charge of operations on the airfield and in the terminal.

He has also held management jobs at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston and all three of London’s airports, including Heathrow, one of the busiest in the world.

He could not be reached for comment.

Ghouse also has served as the Port of Seattle’s security and emergency preparedness director, the county said in a news release.

“He understands the many issues facing airports today and the need to work collaboratively and be customer-service focused,” Lovick said.

Ghouse starts at Paine Field next month. He will manage about 50 employees and a $19 million budget. He will succeed Dave Waggoner, who is retiring after 22 years at the airport.

Waggoner said he intentionally stayed out of the selection process, which included the county executive and two county councilmen — Dave Somers and Brian Sullivan.

“This is a tough job. I have to make calls representing the executive and the council,” Waggoner said.

The county’s elected leaders have to have confidence in his successor, and he didn’t want to influence their decision, he said. “I felt it was really important that he be their guy.”

Given the challenges and opportunities facing the airport, Lovick said, he is confident in the new director.

Ghouse’s background at busy passenger airports was not necessarily significant, Lovick said. “What was important to me was that he is a good leader and manager.”

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454;; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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