ALAMOSA — The Alamosa County Marketing District Board has a few tough choices ahead of them that could impact the fate of the organization. Not only does the board have to replace Alamosa Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jamie Greeman, who resigned Sept. 19, but they also have to select an interim director.
In Greeman’s resignation letter she said that Colorado Welcome Center Manager Kale Mortensen would be a good fit for the interim director position. “I would be happy to train Kale on the operational side of this position,” said the letter. “This would include financial processes such as vouchers, county reports, and accounting.”
“Kale certainly is the number two in command,” said Alamosa County Marketing District Board President Rob Oringdulph during a special meeting of the board on Thursday, “and Jamie has talked to him but I think we maybe need to have someone in addition to Kale.”
Board member Matt Abbey was uncomfortable with the idea of using an employee as the interim director. “If that existing staff member applies for the position and does not get the appointment,” Abbey said, “then we have a sticky wicket.”
Greeman, who has been with the organization for eight years, said in her letter that she would be available for an hourly rate to aide during the transition period. “Much of this position entails planning for the future, and that is something that I will no longer be able to make commitments for...I am committed to leaving this position in much better shape than when I started and I will always just be a phone call away.”
However, before the board could decide on naming Mortensen as interim director, Alamosa County Administrator Gigi Dennis presented them with another option. San Luis Valley Development Resources Group Executive Director Kevin Wilkins reached out to Dennis and offered to serve as interim director.
Dennis shared copies of an email exchange between them with the board, outlining Wilkins’ proposal. Wilkins, who became new SLVDRG executive director last November, said in the email that he would assess the structure and fiscal position of the organization for $2,500 for three months of work. He also suggested administrative meetings with the staff for $300 per week and managing accounting and human resources at $1,000 per month. Citing experience working in tourism in Nebraska’s Pine Ridge and South Dakota’s Black Hills, he would assist with recruitment for free.
“This is a hell of an offer,” Abbey said. “It’s a nice bridge-building with the DRG and pulls the depot community together a little better.”
Dennis agreed, mentioning that the Alamosa County Commissioners are also supportive of the idea, though they won’t have the final say on who is hired.
“I thought that this would take pressure off of you guys who all have busy day jobs,” said Dennis. “It allows a third party set of eyes to take a look of the operations, see where some of the strengths and weaknesses are and make recommendations to you. And it allows you guys to not feel pushed in order to hurry up and make a decision.”
Oringdulph and board member Cathy Simpson expressed reservations about choosing Wilkins due to their lack of personal familiarity with him. Board member Jeff Owsley wondered if he had ulterior motives.
“There has not been the best of relationships through the years,” Owsley said. “It hasn’t been hunky dory and there have been times of tenseness between the entities.”
Oringdulph said that the only motive he could see would be the DRG making money.
“So what if they do want the money?” responded Dennis. “If you’re getting a good product out of it and you’re getting some things that not have taken care of in the past, you can benefit from some different expertise stepping in.”
Wilkins had a prior engagement and was not present at the meeting. The board will meet with Wilkins during a special meeting on Monday, October 2 at 6 p.m. at 610 State Avenue.
No matter who they choose for an interim director, or if a board member fulfills the role a few days a week, the board wants the executive director hired by the start of 2018. They will begin to reach out to the Colorado Tourism Office for guidance, use various listservs and advertise locally. Officials also discussed the pros and cons of hiring someone local or not, which could affect candidates’ differing approaches and contacts.
“This is an executive position and it is our money, our time and our effort invested in making sure we get the right type of applicants,” Abbey said. “Not that we get enough of them, but that we get enough of the right ones.”
Though the executive director is not an employee of the county, resumes will be sent to the county’s human resources department.
“This position is much, much bigger than this board,” said Abbey. “It has the power to dramatically influence, positive or negative, the vistorship and tourism direction of not just Alamosa, the county or the city, but the entire Valley.”