Successful Palisade chamber exec gone


The Palisade Chamber of Commerce board of directors announced Wednesday it voted unanimously to support Mayor Dave Walker as he tries to fend off a bid to recall him from office.

“We are recommending to our members that they vote no on the recall ballot,” board Chairwoman Margie Latta said in a prepared statement. “We believe it is in the best interest of Palisade to retain Mayor Walker.”

The board said it is recommending that Walker be retained because of the chamber’s history of working with the town to promote tourism and a favorable business climate.

The board consists of Latta, Pat Kennedy with Talon Wine Brands, Jerome Stack with Wine Country Inn, Susan Woll with Knode Insurance, James Fletcher with Jay Max Sales, Gale Foster with U.S. Bank, Theresa High with High Country Orchards & Vineyards, Felix Iovanni with Vistas & Vineyards Bed and Breakfast and Palisade Town Trustee Art Silver.

Silver serves as chairman of a committee that opposes the recall, and the Wine Country Inn has come out in support of Walker.

A recall committee claims Walker has abused his power as mayor and threatened and intimidated citizens and businesses. Walker denied the allegations.

— Mike Wiggins

The Palisade Chamber of Commerce is looking for a new organizational head after the unexpected departure of its executive director, a man whom many credit for helping the town thrive financially in the face of the recession.

Former Executive Director Leif Johnson and Margie Latta, chairwoman of the chamber’s board of directors, declined to go into detail about the reasons why Johnson left last month after 4 1/2 years on the job.

Latta said Wednesday the board terminated Johnson.

“This current board wants to move in a different direction than what we were getting working with Leif,” she said. “But Leif is a very capable man. He did some great things with the chamber ... and we’re very grateful to him for that.”

Johnson called his departure a “mutual parting” and suggested there were philosophical differences between the board of directors and him.

“I think the board was focused on the short-term. I’ve always been one to look forward in terms of vision, in terms of where we’re going,” he said.

Under Johnson’s direction, the chamber ramped up its effort to market the town to tourists and businesses. The Wine Country Inn and several new restaurants opened in the past few years. The result has been double-digit increases in the town’s sales-tax revenue over the past couple of years, something no other local government in the Grand Valley has been able to claim in the midst of the worst economy in 25 years.

Johnson noted the number of events on the chamber’s calendar jumped from eight in 2008 to more than 30 this year.

“My mantra has always been marketing. If you’re not out there selling your destination, you’re going to be falling behind,” he said.

Johnson said he is looking for a new job but acknowledges a part of him will always remain in Palisade.

“I wish the chamber well, I wish the board of directors well,” he said. “It’s both kind of sad and exciting.”

Latta said the board of directors is reviewing the more than 30 resumes it has received, including some from outside Colorado, and soon will schedule interviews with candidates. She hopes to hire a new executive director some time this month. Monique Strack has served as the interim executive director but isn’t interested in the permanent job, Latta said.


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