Paine Field operates as a public airport in keeping with applicable federal and state laws, as well as deed and grant restrictions.
Snohomish County owns the airport. Over the years, community leaders have guided the development and operation of Paine Field in keeping with policies approved in 1978 by what was then called the county commission. Those policies were modified in 1979 with the adoption of recommendations from a mediation panel. The combination of these two actions is referred to as the Mediated Role Determination.
In 2007, the Mediated Role Determination was reviewed by a committee led by Ray Stephanson and Don Doran, former mayors of Everett and Mukilteo, respectively. The committee's final report (PDF) on the Mediated Role Determination for Paine Field was completed on May 16, 2007. The committee identified three key factors that it said must influence the airport’s future:
- Federal law does not allow the county to prohibit or limit scheduled passenger air service.
- Federal law does not require the county to encourage or subsidize scheduled passenger service.
- The county “can and should insist that an airline pay its own way and mitigate its impacts.”