Ricky Gease has been hired as the new executive director of the Kenai Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Effective immediately, he will replace Kathy Tarr, who resigned the position to return to school in Pennsylvania. He will run the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center and promote tourism. He has worked at the center since 1998 as the manager of exhibits and education.
"What I'd like to do is, number one, continue on the strong foundation established by Kathy Tarr promoting Kenai as a wonderful travel destination for travelers and Alaskans," he said Tuesday.
"My number two priority is maintaining a close working relationship with the city of Kenai in managing the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center as a premier cultural attraction for the Kenai Peninsula."
Gease added that he hopes the center will serve as a catalyst for promoting arts and culture in the region.
As the new director, he has a busy year ahead. He will be working with others in the visitor industry to deal with the uncertainty and economic fallout caused by terrorism disrupting travel. For now, the focus will be on promoting Alaska as a destination, he said.
In 2002, the center will celebrate its 10th anniversary and mount another major exhibition, titled "The Spirit of Alaska: the Inner Landscape." The grand opening and anniversary celebration is scheduled for May 3.
The center's spring informational training for tour operators and summer interpretive programs will continue, he said.
In other projects, the center will continue developing its Web site, www.visitkenai .com, as a resource for travelers and will hire two new personnel, a communications and special projects coordinator and an exhibits and education manager to replace him.
Gease lives in Kenai with his wife, Kenaitze artist Bunny Swan Gease.
He grew up in Wisconsin and has lived in Alaska since 1992. He holds a master's degree in biology from Stanford University and worked as an interpretive park ranger in Seward before taking the Kenai post in 1998.
The board of the Kenai Convention and Visitors Bureau Inc. announced Gease's hire Tuesday.
Fred Braun, the board's president, said in a prepared statement, "We are extremely pleased to have Ricky Gease as our new executive director. The board is confident in his ability to keep the bureau in strong shape as a trusted community partner for tourism promotion and to work with the city of Kenai to enhance the quality of life for residents through endeavors at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center."
Gease expressed enthusiasm for his new duties.
"I'm just really excited," he said. "I'm psyched."
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