Successful Palisade chamber exec gone
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.