Brad Henderson

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The Henderson family: Oletha, Brett, Tristan and Brad.
The Henderson family: Oletha, Brett, Tristan and Brad.

If you fly in and out of Friedman Memorial Airport, chances are you’ve interacted with Brad “Stone” Henderson.

One of the fine TSA professionals at the airport, Brad puts the sun in SUN with his cheery hellos and wide smile, even when weather is causing busing delays and he is greeting sleepy, grumbling passengers at 4 a.m.

Brad credits good genes for some of his optimistic disposition. “My dad is always pretty upbeat, too,” he said, but also credits the fact that he really likes his job. “My wife, Oletha, laughs that even though I can be an introvert, at work I’m kind of the opposite. I really enjoy interacting with people. I enjoy seeing all my regulars—the 25 to 30 people I see traveling every week. I appreciate the commitment people are making in order to live in this amazing place. I also really like interacting with our visitors.”

To Brad, making everyone feel welcome is part of the job. Even when weather dictates he arrive at the airport at 3:30 a.m., he is happy to see you.

It was the job as a TSA officer at Friedman that brought Brad, Oletha, and their two sons, Brett, a Wood River High School freshman, and Tristan, an energetic four-year-old, to town two-and-a-half years ago. And for the young family, moving to the Wood River Valley was something of a leap of faith.

Brad explained, “We were living in Littleton, Colorado, and were getting a little tired of the traffic and big-city stresses. We were looking for a smaller community to raise the boys in. I had put an application into the TSA two years before and suddenly they called and asked if I’d be interested in a position in Hailey. We had 48 hours to decide!”

While Brad had been through the Wood River Valley briefly, none of the Hendersons had ever actually visited the area. The mad Googling began.

“We checked out the school system, the hockey program, housing, and tried to get a sense of the quality of life,” Brad said. “The area, at least on the Internet, was the type of mountain community we were looking for, so the answer to the TSA was ‘yes’. Oletha and I were both ready for a change.”

The family sold their home, sold their business, and Brad quickly started his two months of training for the TSA. When they moved, finding the right house on such short notice became the only major hiccup and the family lived in a hotel for the first three months in Idaho with a one-year-old, a middle schooler and, not least, their two 125-pound Alaskan Malamutes, Timber and Hazel. Needless to say, the day they moved into their Hailey home was a good day.

The area has proven exactly what the Hendersons hoped for. Avid outdoorspeople, downtime is spent camping, hiking, fly fishing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing when time allows. Oletha was able to stay with longtime employer JLL, for whom she works in IT, to work from home and travel when necessary, allowing her flexibility. Brad’s job has also been a great fit. “I live five minutes from the airport, and my schedule allows me to be home in the afternoon when the boys get out of school, so I can be involved in their lives,” he said.

Part of this involvement for Brad, a youth sports enthusiast, means coaching and supporting Brett’s sports teams in hockey and lacrosse. This spring, Brad, who coached lacrosse in Colorado for four years, is volunteering as the coach of the U-10 team.

A football, hockey and baseball athlete himself through high school, Brad knows the value of athletics for kids. “I have to admit some of our favorite family times are on road trips to away games and tournaments,” Brad laughed. Even a recent six-hour-each-way trip to Bozeman for Bantam hockey had him smiling. “I like getting everyone in the car so we can actually talk to each other without distractions.”

Five questions for Brad:

WRW: Where is your favorite place to travel?

BH: Calgary, Alberta. I’ve been going there for years, for fishing, for hockey. Lake Louise and Banff are spectacular.

WRW: What’s your favorite way to spend the weekend with your family?

BH: We really enjoy camping in the summer, snowshoeing in the winter—just being in nature. It’s one of the main reasons we moved here. There are trails everywhere. I really like weekends spent at sports tournaments, too.

WRW: What do you like most about living in the Wood River Valley?

BH: I think what I like best is the simplicity, or the fact that you can keep things pretty simple if you want to. When we left Colorado, I had worked in corporate jobs and owned a business and was kind of beaten up by traffic, the pace of life. It makes you kind of wonder what you’re doing and second guess yourself. Living here gives me a different perspective and lets me give priority to my family and community. There are a lot of good people here. Coming from a big city, the interactions I had were a lot more generic.

WRW: How do you stay so upbeat despite the stresses of your job?

BH: There’s really no secret. I think it’s just my personality and the fact that I like my job. I’ve always had a can-do attitude. I look at obstacles or problems and think I’m going to beat them and accomplish my goals.

WRW: Are you a summer guy or winter guy? What’s the best part about your favorite season?

BH: I am definitely a winter person, even though I don’t really downhill ski. Everything I love to do, from hiking to fly fishing, I can do all winter and it’s so beautiful and peaceful.

Next time you’re traveling, be sure to give Brad a nod and hello and maybe ask how the hockey season is going. He is certainly there to help you stay safe and to make your departure as smooth as possible, but also to ask about your plans or ask after your kids. His can be a stressful job, but the community makes it worthwhile. “We are so happy we made the decision to call the Wood River Valley home,” he said.

We want to hear from you! If you would like to recommend someone that the community should get to know better, please email us at production@woodriverweekly.com with the subject line Someone to Meet.