Albuquerque Aerostat Ascension Association

Board of Directors Election 2022

2022 Election Information

The election to determine the next slate of board of directors and officers for AAAA is upon us. Voting opens on March 1, 2022, and closed at the General Election Meeting on March 22. This year you will have the opportunity to vote electronically or via paper ballot. Electronic notices will be emailed out when the election goes live. Paper ballots will go in the mail at approximately the same time. All Honorary, Lifetime, Regular, and Family members receive a vote. Junior and Corporate members do not have voting privileges.

If you decide to vote by paper, follow the instructions on the ballot and return the ballot to AAAA via return email, or in-person before the meeting starts at 6:30 pm.

If you decide to vote electronically, there will be a link in the email that you can click on to go directly to the site. You'll have an access number and password to enter before you vote.
Please note, the paper and electronic ballots have a unique number on them to prevent duplicate votes. Attempts to vote a second time will be voided. Pictures and bios will be on the electronic ballot, included with the paper ballot, and are posted below so you can study the candidates before voting.

The offices up for election to a two-year term are President, Treasurer, Crew-Development, Education, and Flying Events. Due to a vacancy on the board, there is a one-year term open for Special Events.

Thank you for taking the time to read up on the candidates and for casting your thoughtful ballot.



Blair Kaufman

My name is Blair Kaufman. I am running for the position of President of AAAA. I have been a member of this important ballooning organization for more than 32 years. I have held the position of Vice President of AAAA from 2004 until 2007 and again from 2014 until 2016. I have been a member of the Education Committee organizing Private Pilot and Commercial Pilot ground schools as well as safety seminars. I enjoy flying the monthly event competitions and want to maintain it as a fun, and friendly competition for all our membership. Ballooning is the reason we are members of AAAA as crew members, pilots, scorers, committee members or friends of our sport. Let’s continue to keep our sport safe and strong.
I have served as a board member of the Balloon Federation of America (BFA) and have maintained my membership throughout my ballooning career. I am a member of Top Gun Inc. for many years and have been President of that club as well. I have flown in ballooning events across the United States as well as Germany, and Mexico. I look forward to continuing my journey in ballooning while giving back to AAAA as president with your support.


Dick Rice (i)

RICHARD W. RICE, CPA New Mexico license #1193
Sole Proprietor, Richard W. Rice, CPA, New Mexico License # 8395
50+ years of Accounting & Tax experience
B.S. Public Accounting, Indiana State University, 1964
Certified Public Accountant in the State of New Mexico, license #1193
2001-present AAAA Board of Directors & Treasurer
2002-present AIBF Treasurer
2001-present AIBF Board of Directors
2007-present IRS VITA Volunteer
1985-2005 Mock Associates, Inc. Vice President, Secretary & CFO
1985-2007 Jaynes Corporation, Board of Directors, Executive Committee
1996-2000 Colorado Jaynes Construction Company, Secretary/Treasurer
1985-2000 Jaynes Corporation, Secretary/Treasurer
1990-1998 Banes General Contractors, Inc., Secretary/Treasurer
1979-1985 Ranchers Exploration and Development Corp., Assistant Treasurer
1975-1985 AIBF Board of Directors
1983 AIBF President
1977-1982 AIBF Treasurer
1962-1979 Ernst & Whinney Tax Department Manager
Retired September 30, 2005 from Mock Associates, Inc. – Oversaw the accounting and tax functions as well as the risk management and financial investment strategies of Mock Associates, and served as a member of the Management team. Remained as consultant until 2013
Retired December 31, 2000, from Jaynes Corporation – remained as consultant, Director, and member of Executive Committee until October 31, 2007
As Secretary and Treasurer of Jaynes Corporation, oversaw all accounting and tax functions for the company. Responsibilities included risk management and financial investment strategies.
Past President, National Director, Past Treasurer, Past Secretary, Past Chairman/Accounting Committee, Past Chairman/Taxation Committee, Past Member -Strategic Planning Committee, Past Member - Executive Committee, Chairman, Certification Committee of the National Construction Financial Management Association.
Founding President, Construction Financial Management Association, Albuquerque Chapter
Past President, Past Treasurer, member Board of Directors of Financial Executives Institute, Albuquerque, NM
Committee member, AGC National Tax & Fiscal Affairs Committee
Past Committee member, New Mexico AGC Employee Benefits Committee
Past Member/Tax Division, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants

Treasurer, and Past President, Albuquerque Chapter New Mexico Society of Certified Public Accountants
Past Treasurer, Terre Haute, Indiana Jaycees
Past President, YMCA of Albuquerque
Past President and Past Treasurer Albuquerque Civic Light Opera Association
Past President and Past Treasurer, Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Past Secretary, Director, and Chairman CPA’s in Industry Committee, New Mexico Society of Certified Public Accountants
Distinguished Past President and Past Treasurer Kiwanis Club of Albuquerque
Past Chairman/Board of Directors, and Past Chair/Budget & Finance Committee-New Mexico Junior Achievement, Inc., Member of Board of Directors.
2002 - Present Treasurer, Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Awarded Outstanding CPA in Industry by New Mexico Society of Certified Public Accountants - 2000
Awarded Danny Parrish Leadership Award by Construction Financial Management Association – 2005
AAAA Sid Cutter Award – 2014
AIBF Heritage Award – 2015
AIBF – Hall of Fame – 2015


Kate Browning

Kate Browning has lived in Albuquerque for 9 years, and started attending Fiesta years before that which has inspired a love of hot air balloons. Two years ago, after crewing for a family friend, her husband Jody jumped right in to become a pilot. Now with 2 balloons “Tater Tot” and the new Racer “Chillin’ Pepper” Kate spends many mornings as Crew Chief on the westside chasing the balloons around.

Kate has a BA degree in Business Management and Economics, and has spent the last 20 years in Accounting and Finance positions in Public Accounting, Retail, and now Hospitality and Entertainment. Currently she is the Corporate Controller for Laguna Development Corporation which operates 3 Casinos, Laguna Burgers, travel centers, a racetrack in Kentucky, and smaller subsidiaries.

Crew Development

Sue Palmer (i)

Hello! I’m Sue Palmer and I’m running for re-election for the Crew Development position on the AAAA board. I’ve been in the crew business, both hot air and gas balloons, for since 2010 and have had many adventures and more fun than I thought a person should be allowed.
It certainly has been an interesting couple of years. The Covid pandemic threw and continues to throw wrenches in everyone’s best laid plans.
To adapt Crew Development had events online to try and keep things lively. While they went rather well and had plenty of participation, it just wasn’t the same.
More recently, actual in person games have returned and it’s been great to see everyone again.
Future plans for Crew Development will be working with the Education committee to create an online Crew Development course similar to the online Private and Commercial pilot course. The pandemic pushed those plans back as well, but hopefully, barring any other delays, we will be getting things rolling on that toward project mid-year. This is something I had hoping to accomplish when I was initially elected.
As always, I’m open to suggestion, or if you’re so inclined, to adding members to my committee.
Thanks for considering me. See you at the launch site!

William Wadsworth

My name is William Wadsworth and I am interested in the position of crew development. I am interested in this position because I know how important it is to have a large pool of crew members that you can trust and know at least the basics of crewing. In my civilian job, I am a station commander for the New Mexico Army National Guard recruiting battalion. Before serving in that position I taught with APS for several years. This experience in education and recruiting is well suited for the crew development position and growing the membership of AAAA.

I have been around ballooning since my family moved to New Mexico in the early 1990s. I crewed for a variety of balloons and pilots and loved the camaraderie and family that exists within ballooning. I took a long break from ballooning until about four years ago when one of my good friends, Karen Converse, decided to finish her LTA certification. I was excited about the opportunity to hop back into ballooning and crew for her. After crewing for her for a while I decided to work on my own license, which I received in December of 2021. I am excited for the opportunity to serve the ballooning community and give back to a community that has been such a big part of my life.


Peg Billson (i)

Peg Billson has been an involved member of AAAA for the past 5 years serving on the Education Committee, where she has been chair for the past two years. She enjoys being one of the Ground School Instructors, both Private and Commercial, and is a Flight Safety Officer during Fiesta. Peg holds a Commercial LTA and an instrument Fixed wing pilot rating. She has been flying for over 40 years and continues to be very active in the ballooning community through AAAA, AIBF, TopGun and attending several balloon rallies each year. Peg looks forward to continuing many more years with AAAA.

Will Manus

I have been involved in ballooning since October 1996. During Fiesta ’96, I started crewing for the Yellow Submarine balloon from Russia. I had my first flight and immediately knew I wanted to become a pilot. In 1997 I started crewing for George and Vera Pulley. I attended AAAA’s private ground school in spring 2003. In October 2003, I was able to purchase my own system. I started my flight training with Robert Lupton in December 2003. I obtain my private pilot certificate in September 2004. I obtained my commercial pilot certificate in July 2014. I have participated in balloon rallies throughout the southwest, including AIBF 17 times. Along with Mayor Peter Nieto, I have started a balloon rally in Mountainair, NM.
As far as teaching experience, I am a paramedic with Albuquerque Fire Rescue and am currently assigned to the training academy. I have been involved in teaching Fire and EMS for the last 5 years. I was also part of the Civil Air Patrol’s ballooning program for about 2 years. AAAA has great education programs, and I would like to continue their efforts to expand the local ballooning community. With my current work schedule, I now have the time to be more active in AAAA and would like give back to the club that help me get into ballooning.

Flying Events

Doug Gantt (i)

The day after Doug Gantt moved to Central Florida, he saw a hot-air balloon lifting off from the open field next to an orange grove in the morning mist and he was captivated. Soon after that first encounter, Doug moved to DeLand and attended his first balloon rally; both as a spectator and a photographer. Shortly after attending this rally, Doug took his first balloon ride and soon thereafter bought his first balloon; and thus, began his illustrious ballooning career.

With over 25 years as an experienced and professional balloon pilot, Doug's expertise has allowed him to work with an enviable list of corporate clients and he has participated in balloon festivals across the United States, Canada, and Taiwan. Doug has been a commercial pilot, flight instructor, safety seminar speaker, event organizer, and an on-air personality for radio, television, and film documentaries. He has also operated and managed corporate balloon programs for several Fortune 500 Companies, achieving exceptional and measurable results. Doug is also a frequent contributor to Ballooning Magazine and an award-winning nature photographer.

With over 1,300 hours of pilot-in-command time, Doug has safely flown thousands of delighted passengers. For 15 years, he was the Organizer/Balloonmeister of the Central Florida Balloon Rally in DeLand, Florida; an event recognized annually as a Top Ten Event in the Southeast. He is also a speaker and presenter at Balloon Safety Seminars on the subjects of Meteorology, Safety, Pilot Awareness & Decision Making, and Pilot Professionalism.

A brief listing of some of the corporate partners that Doug has worked with include Ford Motor Racing, the Bacardi Corporation, Sara Lee, Heavenly Ham, Hawaiian Tropic, ATT, and Taco Bell; and Sony Electronics as an integral part of their national campaign for WEGA televisions as they received an Effie due in part to our dedicated efforts. He has also worked with WSHE BIG 100.3 Radio (Oldies) and WFTV-9 (ABC), in Orlando.

Hot air balloon rides are conducted seven days a week in Albuquerque, NM, with Albuquerque Balloon Worx, as well as in Orlando, FL, and in Denver, CO, with our affiliate pilots. Corporate Aerial Balloon Promotions for our corporate partners are conducted throughout the United States. Doug is also a Special Shapes Balloon Pilot, flying Ham-Let, The World's Largest Flying Pig, with his company When Pigs Fly.

The decisions that Doug makes as a pilot are vitally important, and his enviable safety record is a testament to his careful, concerned, and calculated approach to both flying and crew training. Doug is well-known for his expertise in public relations, media relations, and corporate client relationships. With 600 registered pilots at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Doug is one of 12 pilots selected each year to work with Media Relations. In doing so, he provides color, commentary, and rides to local, national, and international media representatives who are on assignment covering Balloon Fiesta. During his flights for Balloon Fiesta, he has worked with all the major tv stations across the country, as well as many highly-regarded journals such as Forbes Magazine, Wall Street Journal, and television specials with The Weather Channel and Google Earth.

Doug is on the Board of Directors of the largest balloon club in the world, the Albuquerque Aerostat Ascension Association (AAAA), as the Flying Events Chairperson. He is also a member of the Balloon Federation of America, and graciously donates his time, talents, tethers, and flights to charitable organizations such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Craig Hospital Rite of Flight in Denver, and to elementary schools and youth groups in the areas where he travels to attend events.

Robby Keaveny

My name is Robby Keaveny. I have been in love with Hot air balloons for as long as I can remember. I got my first ride when I was 8 years old flying out of Balloon Fiesta. I began crewing when I was 12 years old and my passion only grew from there. After crewing for many different pilots and even working as crew for a local balloon ride company, it was time to have my own. I purchased my first balloon in November 2019 and got my private license in September 2021.
Hot air ballooning has and is facing the challenge of lack of interest. Because I have a deep passion for this sport, I would like to join the AAAA board to be a part of this group in a new way. Together we can spark new interest and rekindle old interest. I bring close to 16 years of ballooning experience as well as some fresh ideas. I believe that a mix of new things and bringing back some old memories will make our fun flying events even better!

Special Events 1 year term

Chris McCord

Chris was born and raised in New Mexico. His passion for ballooning started at a young age when he would attend the balloon fiesta. He often would crew with his family and when he got older later became a private pilot. He is currently working on his commercial pilots certification. He is the pilot and owner of Detour, a Cameron Z-77 that has filled that skys in Albuquerque since 2020. Chris has hosted and planned many events throughout the years. Chris also serves in public safety as a police commander and has assisted with planning several large local events, some bringing more than 70,000 attendees. He also has served on the board of several local non-profit organizations. Chris is a family guy and truly enjoys spending time with his fiancee and friends.