G. Hardy Acree, the executive who preached thinking big while overseeing Sacramento International Airport's $1 billion expansion, has announced his retirement after 13 years as head of the county airport system.
Acree's departure date is Dec. 15, airport officials said. Acree could not be reached for comment, but has told colleagues he intends to maintain a role in the aviation industry.
Sacramento County spokeswoman Chris Andis said the county will launch a national search for a replacement. The county airport chief also oversees Sacramento Executive Airport, Mather Airport and Franklin Field.
Acree, 62, leaves a huge imprint on the region's airport. Acree pushed through the biggest expansion in airport history, against protests from airlines, which likened it to a Taj Mahal. Fees on airlines and fliers provide much of the funding for the facility.
The new four-story Terminal B and the separate concourse building opened last year to good reviews, although a number of fliers have questioned the need for the new facility's automated people mover shuttle system. Acree dismissed criticism of the project's size as small-town thinking.
"I've always felt Sacramento needs to think bigger," Acree said during the planning. "We could be anything we want to be."
Acree, an Arkansas native and former pilot, described his philosophy as: "It's better to aim for the moon and hit the side of the barn than to aim for the barn and hit your foot."
Acree and county officials were forced to drop a planned terminal-top hotel from the project and postpone construction of a second garage when the recession hit during construction, causing airport usage and revenues to drop.
Airport officials forecast ridership increases again in the coming years. They recently began negotiations with a developer for two hotels on airport grounds.
Acree previously worked as deputy director for the Houston Airport System, airport manager for Anchorage International Airport and operations manager for Philadelphia International Airport.
In his time in Sacramento, Acree also oversaw construction of the Terminal A garage and recently launched an effort to have the airport's federal security agents replaced with private security.
Sacramento County Board of Supervisors Chairman Don Nottoli said Acree did an excellent job of pulling together a master plan vision for the airport, and assembling a team to pull it off.
"I've appreciated his leadership," Nottoli said. "He has helped this system become positioned for future growth."