Talking Tourism: Leadership Changes for Visit Cook County

Talking Tourism Monthly Column in the Cook County News Herald.

Originally published: March 12, 2021

Leadership Changes for Visit Cook County

By Linda Jurek, Executive Director, Visit Cook County

March 2020 marked the 10th anniversary of Visit Cook County. It was our plan to host a small celebration and thank all of our tourism partners for the outstanding work accomplished in the  promotion of tourism in northeastern Minnesota.  Of course, COVID sent us down a much different path and now, nearly one year later, we want to take time to express our gratitude. The Board of Directors for Visit Cook County gathered virtually via zoom on January 20th for their annual board retreat to set strategic goals and priorities for the upcoming year.

Since the foundation of Visit Cook County, there has been significant leadership changes as businesses change ownership and individuals take turns leading the organization. Because of the evolution of the organization, the Visit Cook County team prepared an in depth Organizational Guidebook which highlights the milestones of our organization’s change and growth. This guidebook exemplifies the work that has been done by this organization and the journey of the board leadership. It is a foundational tool to reflect on as we look forward to the future of tourism in our community.

In addition to the guidebook, we also created a community assessment portfolio. This portfolio provides a summary of marketing efforts as well as growth in visitor numbers and lodging tax collection. Together these help to provide a sense of the full marketing scope. Both documents can be found on our website in the Marketing section of the Media Room.

Leadership of Visit Cook County

The leadership of Visit Cook County is composed of many leaders from every corner of Cook County. Our board of directors includes representation from three tourism associations, Grand Marais Area Tourism Association (GMATA), Lutsen Tofte Tourism Association (LTTA) and the Gunflint Trail Association (GTA), as well as contributing partner Lutsen Mountains. Each association receives a seat at the table and the number of seats per association is assigned based upon the percentage of lodging tax contributed by that community. Each association is responsible for electing their representatives to the Visit Cook County board.

At the time of the Board Retreat, the board recognized the resignation of Beth Kennedy and the new appointment of Eric Humphrey. Welcome Eric! Beth Kennedy, who started several businesses in Grand Marais and successfully passed them on to her children, was named the Cook County Chamber’s Community Business Leader of the Year in 2016. Beth has a long-term commitment to our community, especially for her work with Empty Bowls and Ruby’s Pantry, and her “passion and caring about the lives of others”. And at a recent meeting of LTTA, the board accepted the resignation of Dennis Rysdahl and the appointment of Katie Krantz. Dennis sold Bluefin Bay approximately one year ago and has been serving in a transitional advisory capacity. He has served on numerous boards of directors and is recognized for his leadership skills and generous gift of his time. In November 2020, Dennis was selected as the Business of Leader of the Year, Cook County Chamber of Commerce.)

Current board leadership of Visit Cook County:

  • Jennifer Kennedy, Chair (GMATA)
  • Charles Skinner, Vice Chair (LTTA)
  • John Fredrickson, Treasurer (GTA)
  • Carl Madsen (GTA)
  • NEW Katie Krantz (LTTA)
  • Thom McAleer (LTTA)
  • Mike Larson (LTTA)
  • Bryce Campbell (LTTA)
  • Emily Haussner (LTTA)
  • Jim Vick (Lutsen Mountains)
  • Dave Tersteeg (GMATA)
  • NEW Eric Humphry (GMATA)

In addition to Visit Cook County board meetings, each association meets a few times per year. This spring, each association has met and nominated new board members. Two new board members were welcomed to the Grand Marais Area Tourism Association. Rachelle Christiansen (Skyport Lodge/Raven Rock Grill) and Eric Humphrey (Lake Superior Trading Post), joined a board of seasoned hospitality leaders including Jennifer Kennedy (East Bay Suites), Sara Hingos (Crooked Spoon), Dave Tersteeg (GM Recreational Park), Tom Nelson (Nelson’s Travelers Rest), and Chris Mehlhaff (Best Western). The leadership of the GTA includes John Fredrickson (Gunflint Lodge), Carl Madsen (Rockwood Lodge), Nancy Waver (Trout Lake Resort) and Deb Mark (Seagull Canoe Outfitters).  LTTA leadership welcomed Katie Krantz (Bluefin Bay) as a new board member in January.  Katie joined the following individuals in providing leadership from our “west end” communities: Mike Larson (Cascade Vacation Rentals), Bryce Campbell (Lutsen Resort), Emily Haussner (Caribou Highlands), Jim Vick (Lutsen Mountains), Charles Skinner (Eagle Ridge), Kim Corliss (North Shore Winery), and Thom McAleer (Cascade Lodge and Restaurant).

That’s 32 individual leaders providing advice and direction to the Visit Cook County team. We encourage you to read the Organizational Guidebook and Community Assessment. And as always, give us a call or email if you have cool ideas to share, questions on tourism, or have an interest in joining one of the boards.