When running something as complex as SeaTac International Airport, the nation’s seventeenth busiest with 31 million passengers a year, it helps to be able to synthesize information and make connections. For Mark Reis, the ability to do that began at Huxley College.
Reis said one of the most valuable lessons he learned while studying at Huxley was systems theory. It’s “really all about seeing connections,” he said. “Management and leadership requires seeing how seemingly unconnected things fit together.”
Mark graduated from Huxley in 1975 and moved to Washington, D.C., to work for Friends of the Earth, an environmental lobby group. Then he joined the staff of Rep. Jim Weaver of Oregon and worked on the Pacific Northwest Electric Power and Conservation Act, which passed in 1980. It has been critical in shifting Northwest utilities from emphasizing energy production to energy conservation.
The Bonneville Power Administration has since met nearly all of its growth and demand with conservation, Reis said.
“What we were doing back then was absolutely revolutionary,” Reis said. “To have Congress define life-cycle cost effectiveness as the criterion for energy investment was unheard of.”
Following this legislative success, Reis moved back to the Pacific Northwest to start two nonprofit organizations, the Northwest Conservation Act Coalition and the Northwest Renewable Resources Center.
In 1987, Reis attended Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and received a master’s degree in public administration.
Next came a job at the Port of Seattle that was expected to last six months, but became permanent. He was made deputy director of SeaTac Airport in 2000 and director in 2004, where he launched programs to “green” the airport and enlisted Huxley students in the effort. The airport recycles 1,300 tons of material a year, purchases green energy, and leads the industry in bird and wildlife protection and stormwater management. “We’ve really been able to push the envelope in terms of environmental initiatives at airports,” Reis said. “We’re looked upon in the United States as
one of the most progressive airports in the country, and actually the world, from an environmental point of view.”
Besides having one of the most aggressive recycling programs, SeaTac has increased its energy efficiency by 25 percent since 2000, he said.
In addition to his position at Sea-Tac, Reis serves on Woodland Park Zoo’s board of directors and the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau. He is also a member of the Huxley College Associates Board.
Mark oversaw completion of a contentious third runway in 2008 over fierce neighborhood opposition and has handled the increased security concerns of a post-9/11 world. He suggested that anyone with an environmental studies degree looking to work in public administration should get into politics as soon as possible.
“You will learn how the world works and how to make things happen,” Reis said. “And whatever it is you want to accomplish, articulating the merit of the project is the first step.”