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Safety Chief To Lead Sunport

By Jim Ludwick
Journal Staff Writer
    When Nick Bakas was young, he would visit the airport to see his father, who worked there as a janitor.
    Now, Bakas will be running the place.
    "Only in America," Bakas said Tuesday after Mayor Martin Chávez announced he will be the director of Albuquerque International Sunport.
    Bakas has been serving as the city's chief public safety officer. He's a career policeman who headed the state Department of Public Safety before joining the Chávez administration in 2001.
    He has a law degree and a master's degree in public administration from the University of New Mexico. He's a graduate of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va.
    Chávez said Bakas will continue to have a role in emergency management and anti-terrorism issues. It's unclear if he will be replaced as chief public safety officer.
    Bakas replaces Mike Rice as aviation director. Rice retired about two months ago.
    Chávez said he's pleased to have Bakas as director of aviation.
    "It gives us a chance to view the airport through a public-safety lens," he said.
    Bakas said he's "gratified and excited" about the assignment.
    He said the airport is "a beautiful facility" and an important asset.
    "I'm anxious to get out there," he said.
    Bakas is a Greek immigrant whose father worked at the airport after the family arrived in the United States from a refugee camp on the Greek island of Tinos.
    He believes his parents would have been pleased to see him get the top job at the airport where his father worked.
    Bakas joined the Albuquerque Police Department in 1973 and worked his way up through the ranks, eventually becoming captain in the Southeast Area Command.
    He was appointed state secretary of public safety in 1999, responsible for the State Police and the New Mexico Motor Transportation and Special Investigations units.