Westall has been accused of abuse of power in earlier jobs

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- Brig. Gen Thomas Westall's departure from the defense force marks the third time he's left a post amid complaints he abused the power of the position.

In 2006, he resigned from his job as Wasilla's part-time airport manager.

A member of the city's airport advisory commission said that group pressed city officials for the manager's resignation.

Westall was overbearing about the rules and "continually making a lot of people angry," said Littleton C. "LC" Billingsley, a flight instructor and commission member.

One of those people was air taxi operator Dave Glenn, ticketed by Westall for violating airport rules about dogs.

Things went downhill between the two after that, Glenn said.

"He showed up in a quasi-military civilian uniform with a flak vest and an automatic pistol hanging on his hip," he said. "This made me highly nervous ... and he had a badge on. I walked up and looked at it. It said he was a constable."

Glenn, who served with the 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War, decided to start carrying his gun.

"The badge issue and the pistol didn't really mean anything except two or three other people started carrying pistols out there," Billingsley said. "That's when we thought it was getting to an explosive situation. There were several people driving around the airport with a pistol on the dashboard."

The commission never took official action, he said. He believes Westall stepped down after word got out about the commission wanting him to resign.

Not true, Westall said. He served as a contractor, finished his duties to get federal funding for airport improvements and left the job.

City officials were pleased with the work he did, said Archie Giddings, the city's public works director. He said Westall left the airport because his state duties with the militia were taking up more of his time.

The city still calls on Westall occasionally as a contractor and plans to do so in the future, Giddings said.

Controversy also surrounded Westall in 1989, when he was a top enforcement official for the Federal Aviation Administration in Alaska who shut down eight air carriers in 18 months.

Under pressure from U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, the agency replaced Westall after relations soured between the FAA and the airline industry, according to news reports at the time.

Westall said the agency didn't replace him but wanted to promote him. Officials wanted to move him to a senior position in Washington, D.C., but he wanted to stay in Alaska, so he retired.

A Seattle-based agency spokesman did not respond to requests for information in time for this story.

Westall said he didn't understand "all this negativeness" when asked by a reporter about his track record with the FAA, airport and now the changing Alaska State Defense Force.

"I've done nothing but try to do the best job I can," he said. "I think the reorganization is going to be just great. I just think it's time for me to move on."