Log in


June 21, 2024

SWAAAE Celebrates June As Pride Month!

SWAAAE recognizes June as Pride Month throughout our region and celebrates our members who identify as part

of the LGBTQ+ community. Meet Scott Riddle, the Assistant Director of Airports for The County of Santa Clara, California. We had the opportunity to sit down with Scott this week and talk about his experience as a Gay male in the airport industry.

Q. Please tell us about yourself

I have been a resident of San Jose California since the mid-90s when I moved here from the agricultural area of the Central Valley. I have lived with my Husband since 2011 and we love to travel to his home island in the Philippines. My work history has been very eclectic, and I hear all the time, “What have you not done?,” My work history has made me very good at problem solving and figuring things out even if I have not done it before.

Q. Tell me about your aviation career

I started in the aviation industry by accident. A guy walked into my small bookkeeping office and said he wanted me to come work for him. So, I went to work for a wealthy family that owned properties all over the western US and Hawaii. That family also had airplanes which I indirectly managed as part of the overall asset portfolio for the family. One of my properties was a couple of FBO hangar/offices at SJC which, on a whim, I applied to work [for] at SJC. In 2001, I was hired as a Property Manager. I later moved up in that position to running the whole team. I was known at SJC as the fixer. I worked to get things done and navigate the challenges of working in government and political environments. I retired from the City and came to the County as the Airports Business Manager and now the Assistant Director. At the County established the aircraft fueling program for Reid-Hillview and San Martin Airports which was instrumental in the County strategy to be the first to in the country to eliminate the sale of leaded aviation fuel. This was a huge task as my colleagues at other airports are running away from fueling and we ran to it and started it from scratch.

Q. How has inclusion and being out changed over your tenure with the City and now County?

The short answer to the question is the City and County have, in my opinion, been inclusive since I have been here. Both have evolved from accepting to embracing. The City embraced their LGBTQ+ workforce and provided and environment that was easy to be open. Two of our City employees started an Employee Resource Group for our community that was active in providing resources to our community but also engaged with City management to let them know about our community and its needs. I would never have believed that we would be more than just accepted but allowed to organize and influence our elected officials and management. The ERG also provided me an important resource to learn about the spectrums of our community and in particular, the Trans community. When I came to the County, I was really excited to get involved and although we do not have a county wide ERG we do have an Office of LGBTQ+ Affairs and I am connected with a couple of the folks there that are also connected with our Silicon Valley Pride. All that to say, it’s a very different world from what I started at.

Q. Why do you choose to be Out at work?

I need to be out at work because I am a very gregarious and social person and I do not want to hide my partner or that part of me. I hope that by being out I can empower individuals to challenge their understanding of the world, the community and themselves. I may be the only person who is able to connect or educate them on who we are. We cannot live in echo chambers and isolation and then expect people are going to be accepting or embracing.

Q. According to you, why are diversity, equality, and inclusion important in the workplace?

The workplace is key because many of us are in the workplace more than we are home and we work with the public. The workplace is one of the key areas where the lack of DEI has resulted in people not having access to ways to support themselves and it’s important for DEI to be a part of who we are at work to make sure that the workplace is open to all. The workplace is also the connection to the public and community and employees who are engaged in DEI can better serve the community and may expose people to DEI that otherwise would not have experienced it. The aviation industry is a front facing public workplace that gives us an opportunity to engage the public and allow them to see DEI in a real-world environment.

Q. Can you share something surprising about yourself that people might not know?

I lived my first nine years with hippies and then ultra evangelical Christians. I traveled the world as a sound and lighting technician for a religious group who the leader is now a close friend and out as well. I have not unfriended any family member or friends who has expressed negativity for my being out because I want them to see what DEI is and I may be the only person who they will see through my life that being gay is not a horrible way to live.

Q. In your opinion, how is The County showing its commitment to LGBTQ inclusion in the workplace?

The County does not really have to work hard to be diverse and thankfully it has embraced the LGBTQ+ community. My friend Ken Yeager who was then President of the County Board of Supervisors championed conducting a health assessment of the LGBTQ+ community in 2013 and it concluded there was a significant need for more services for our community. The County then created the Office of LGBTQ+ affairs in 2016 with a vision “… committed to creating strong bridges throughout Santa Clara County that affirm and embrace the whole person by creating a social climate with institutional backing that offers multiple pathways for LGBTQ individuals and communities to thrive here and everywhere.” I believe the County recognizes they are the largest public sector organization in Northern California with more than 23,000 employees providing services to nearly 2 million residents and as such they recognize the LGBTQ+ community is an important part of the people they serve and work for them. Our City and County elected officials embrace and support our community and that is awesome and I am thankful that I live in an area where that is not unusual.

Q. How can the Airport industry in general, learn from your journey and challenges you/ other LGBTQ+ colleagues have had to overcome?

We work with a diverse customer base and what better way to learn to help that base then engage your diverse workforce to help you with that. Educate and encourage growth in learning about other cultures, customs, and ways to connect with our travelers and coworkers.

Q. If the Airport industry could do one thing better to be more inclusive for LGBTQ+ people, what would that be?

That is a hard question for me because I have not had an experience in our industry that I could point at and say that is what needs to be fixed. I live as an entitled, white CIS male who has not been really discriminated that I can point to. Part of that is because I also live in a very diverse and open environment in the bay area. One thing the industry can do is continue to acknowledge the LGBTQ+ community is a large part of their workforce and the people they serve. The industry needs to ensure they are providing resources to the workforce to learn about DEI and how diverse the LGBTQ+ community is. It should not be difficult for an employee to be able to access resources to educate them on what our community is and see what the industry is doing for the LGBTQ+ community.

Q. What does PRIDE Month mean to you?

This month is a month of not just celebration but expression and being out and proud. For me it’s also a time to reflect and be thankful for the ones who paved the road before us, celebrate where we are and work on making our future. It’s about participating in the events and celebrations and to be part of the groups that are having these conversations. When I was young it was tough but I am proud the believe that I am the last generation to have had it really bad.

Q. How are you planning to celebrate Pride this year?

Connecting as much as I can with my community and taking every opportunity to learn more about it. This month I will hear lots about the trailblazers who started the celebration and made it possible we can be acknowledged. I am going to celebrate the acknowledgement from corporations, governments, allies, and everyone else who recognizes how important the LGTBQ+ community is to society and the economy. I hope to leverage that to get the word out, educate and share my own personal journey.

Q. What one LGBTQ+ community misconception would you like to educate others?

Wow there are a few and some of them are a little too delicate for publishing. I would love for people to see and understand how diverse the community is. I have friends who are conservative Christian Republicans!

Q. Anything else you would like to share on the topic?

The diversity of our community has taught me so much about myself. My willingness to be a part of a diverse community and my willingness to be open to different ideas and not live in an echo chamber has made me a better person. I think my community has allowed me to be a better public servant and public employee.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software