When she was a girl, Beth Zurenko had visions of stage stardom, and a realistic shot at a career as an opera singer.
“I went to a small college in Michigan,” said Zurenko, who joined TPA as Director of Airline Real Estate in March. “I was actually a voice major. I was studying music, planning a career in voice performance.”
As she progressed in her college career, the reality of earning a living came more into focus. A friend told her about a two-year school out west that would train her for a career with the airlines.
“At that time, the airline industry was perceived as very glamorous,” Zurenko said. “It was before deregulation and before the bankruptcies.” Reservations may not have been the most glamorous segment of the airline industry, she said, but it was an excellent entry into that world.
She gave up her shot at singing Puccini for a shot at working at Continental. She’s now spent decades in the aviation industry and has no regrets. She had been working with airlines until earlier this year when she landed at TPA.
“I’m the face of Tampa International Airport for the airlines when it comes to anything regarding their leaseholds,” Zurenko said. Her position at TPA involves, among other things, working out the details of the leases the airlines have with the airport. And as the airport moves forward with the Master Plan, Zurenko will work as a liaison between TPA and the airlines.
Zurenko said her long career in the airline industry, mostly with United, AirTran and Southwest, gives her an understanding of the airlines’ concerns and problems, especially her years in Airline Real Estate and Airport Affairs. Her job is also made easier by TPA’s reputation, she said. She’s traveled all over the world in her various airline positions, often traveling four days a week, every week of the year, and has learned that TPA is universally known and respected, and after 40 years is still considered a model for airport design and efficiency.
“One of the nice things about coming here, although it wasn’t really a surprise, was learning about the quality of the people at all levels of this operation,” she said.
Although her current job won’t require her to travel as much, she and her husband, Joe, still love traveling for pleasure. And they often take along one – or more – of their eight grandchildren, who range in age from 2 to 20. Coming up: A trip to the Caribbean with three of them.
Zurenko said she and her husband traveled all around the world with their son, the youngest of their four children. They took him to Europe, Asia and Latin America. He now works at Ernst and Young and is enrolled in a master’s degree program at the University of Chicago.
“The globalization of his thought process and expanding his world view has made a huge difference in how he sees things,” she said. “That really contributed to his success as an adult.”