WASHINGTON — Michael Huerta, a former transportation logistics manager for the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, flew through a Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday toward becoming the new deputy director of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced Huerta, a California native, to the Senate Commerce Committee as "an honorary Utahn" for his transportation, planning and logistical work during the Olympics. "It was in no small part due to his efforts that Utah's Olympic games were the first Olympics to have a fully successful transportation operation," Hatch said.
Hatch noted that Huerta even returned to the Olympics committee — after leaving for a higher paying job elsewhere — when told that he was the only person who had enough experience to solve a potentially serious flaw found in planning a few months before the games began.
Hatch said Huerta returned to help "because at heart he's a public servant and couldn't let an effort he worked on fail."
Huerta told the committee that his work on the Olympics "taught me about how an immovable deadline can be extremely powerful in motivating and focusing a team toward a common objective. We had to be focused but flexible, and ready to adapt to the unexpected."
He said such experience could help at the FAA with such efforts as deploying NextGen, its new air traffic control system, and working with Congress to reauthorize important FAA safety programs.
Huerta faced only a handful of mostly friendly questions during the hearing, and was praised by committee members.
"You're an organizer, and you understand priorities," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said in praise of Huerta, who held senior positions in the Clinton Administration's Transportation Department and is currently President of MPH Consulting, and was a member of President Obama's transportation transition team.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who chaired the hearing, said he hopes for a quick vote to confirm Huerta, and said his "training and attitude and experience couldn't be better."
This story was reported from Salt Lake City.