Woman of Influence: Gisela Shanahan

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Gisela Shanahan, Colorado Springs Airport

For the first two phases of her life, Gisela (GEESE-sa-la) Shanahan got to know military bases very well. She grew up as a military brat, moving 10 times as her career Army father put in his 30 years of service. Then she jumped bases 10 more times after she married Air Force Col. Michael Shanahan.

“That kind of life — you either embrace it, or you struggle with it,” says Shanahan, the chief financial officer for the Colorado Springs Airport. “I loved it. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

And yet, the day came when she and her Air Force Colonel husband had to decide whether they would make one more move, or settle down. But more on that later.

Shanahan was raised mostly on military bases on the East Coast and in Germany. Her mother cheerfully cultivated a role as the base organizer of kid events — Brownies, Girl Scouts, sports teams — setting the “trooper” example for Gisela and her two sisters. (Later, a brother joined the traveling show.) Her father did two tours of Vietnam, won a Purple Heart, and his daughter’s heart as well. “He was my hero,” she says.

After high school, she put in two years at the Air Force Academy, but left when it became clear she wouldn’t be doing any flying. She never lost her love of aviation … but more on that later too. She turned her attention to finance, got a BS in accounting and an MBA in finance, married Michael, and hit the road. She was hardly in the background. During the Clinton Administration, she represented military families at the White House.

Two sons and many military career moves later, they ended up in Colorado Springs for a second posting in 2003. She took a job with Divine Redeemer Catholic Church and school and turned its finances around. She loved it. Then came the crossroads: Michael was offered another transfer. “We’d always wanted to come back here, and I was offered the opportunity at the airport.” She and Michael decided they were home to stay. He retired from the military, went to work for the EPA. She took the airport job.

“I always wanted to be around the aviation industry,” she says. “It was the perfect fit for me.” She’s thrived in the job, piling up accolades, getting involved in industry organizations, and continuing to improve the airport’s financial structure and revenue base.