Longtime President Axed By Reno Race Group

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Citing an ongoing effort "to ensure long-term sustainability," the board of the Reno Air Races Association said on Monday it has eliminated the job of CEO Mike Houghton, and he won't be replaced. "This is an extremely difficult decision but, in light of current circumstances and financial restraints, we felt that it was in the best interest of the Air Races," said board chairman Mike Major. The board cited an increase of $3 million in operating expenses in the last two years, mainly due to insurance hikes following the 2011 accident when a pilot and 10 spectators died. Houghton told the local RGJ.com website the decision was "disappointing and devastating," though not a total shock. "The reality of it is tough," he said. "I've been doing this for 15 years and 16 races."

RARA said it has revised its organizational bylaws and restructured its board of directors to allow for more efficient and effective decision-making and a stronger emphasis on sponsorships, coalition building and fundraising. In November, the group said it had cut wages and benefits, and eliminated two staff positions. About two weeks ago, Houghton announced the organization had successfully raised its target of $500,000 to meet costs for the first quarter of next year. He told RGJ.com this week he was proud of his work at the air races. “I can proudly say I played a role in keeping the event alive when many said it couldn’t be done,” he said, but now he'll look for another job. “That’s all you can do, is take it one step at a time,” he said. “I’ve given my blood, sweat and tears to the air races and now it’s time to find something else.” Going forward, RARA's board of directors will fulfill the CEO roles and responsibilities.