Piedmont flight attendant Herb Russell represented over 6,000 people in his district as a House Representative for the state of Vermont before joining Piedmont. Herb is passionate about taking care of people whether they are citizens in his district or the customers aboard his regional aircraft. As a state representative, he learned to creatively accomplish tasks with limited assistance, a skill that serves him well as a solo flight attendant on the Embraer-145 aircraft.
Originally from Seneca Falls, New York, Herb was accepted into the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Kentucky with pilot aspirations. While there, he worked as a ramp agent for two years for the original Allegheny Airlines. During this timeframe, Herb had revealed he was colorblind and learned that with this condition he would not be permitted to fly commercial aircraft. As one door may have closed another one opened just as quickly. He had come across the news that airlines had begun hiring men as flight attendants and found a new aviation dream to pursue.
Herb joined Northwest Orient Airlines as a flight attendant in 1974 and stayed with the company through changes that led him to join American Airlines on American’s 50th birthday, April 15, 1976. He worked domestic flights and became a purser where he also flew to Europe and South America. The purser program is a leadership program where flight attendants receive training to manage a large crew. “It was all about fulfilling the company’s customer service standards and was a lot of responsibility,” recalls Herb.
After 30 years as a flight attendant, Herb retired from American and moved to Rutland, Vermont. He had always had an interest in politics and formed the ‘Friends of Rutland Rail’ committee where he mounted an effort to save Rutland’s Amtrak service. “The Governor was going to cease Amtrak service from Rutland and the railway was key to the city’s growth,” reflects Herb. “The committee’s effort to save the railroad was successful and as a result, I was asked to consider running for State Representative.” He ran in 2010 and served three consecutive terms where he was appointed to the Vermont House Transportation Committee overseeing railroads, airports and highways. “It was a privilege and an honor to represent my district of over 6,000 people,” says Herb. He recalls his time as a representative in the House as meaningful where he learned a lot about politics.
After retiring from the political life, Herb relocated to Rehobeth Beach, Delaware and was encouraged to get back in the business he loves. Airlines were hiring and he joined Piedmont as a flight attendant in October 2019.
Herb jokingly says that he was better suited to be a flight attendant after working in state government. “When you work for a citizen legislature, you utilize a shared staff of House administrative assistants but have to do most everything yourself,” he says. “Just like being a flight attendant on an E-145, I have to find creative ways to accomplish my tasks in a timely manner and be organized because it’s just me working the flight.” Herb also says a politician has to have good interpersonal and communication skills when dealing with other state representatives and the press and these are skills he brought with him to Piedmont. “The goal is to always be moving forward to get the job done.”
Herb takes pride in being a seasoned flight attendant at age 68. “I’m proud of what I do,” says Herb. “I treat people with respect and want them to leave my aircraft with a good feeling about Piedmont. As the only flight attendant on an E-145, I do my best to interact with each customer. The reward for me is when people leave with a smile.”
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Next Destination is a Piedmont feature series that highlights our aviation professionals who joined Piedmont after working in a different career field. Piedmont is proud to recognize our team members for their contributions to the success of the airline.