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New Visitors Bureau Director Leaving Position After One Month

by on April 25, 2018 1:25 PM

Just more than a month after being announced as the new executive director of the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau, Jeffrey Vasser is leaving for a different position.

Vasser started in the position on March 19. But on Monday he received an offer from the New Jersey governor's office to become executive director of the state's Division of Travel and Tourism. He said on Wednesday that the decision to leave after a short period was "probably one of the toughest decisions I've had to make."

President and CEO of the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority for 11 years, Vasser had most recently been regional vice president for BR Guest Hospitality in Atlantic City before coming to Centre County. His family is still in New Jersey and had not yet made the move.

"It’s a fantastic position for someone in my industry," he said. "That in and of itself probably would not have gotten me to make a move so soon after I got here but I felt it was the best thing for my family. It would enable them to stay put where they are and not go through a move."

The CPCVB Board announced Vasser's hiring on March 12, following a nearly year-long search for a new executive director to succeed Betsey Howell, who retired in 2017 after 30 years with the bureau.

Board chair Bob Ricketts said on Wednesday that Lori Miller, who served as interim director after Howell's departure, will again lead the organization during a search for the new executive director. The board's executive committee was meeting on Wednesday afternoon to plan for the search, which Ricketts hopes will not be as lengthy as the last one.

"We want the best candidate for the job," Ricketts said. "We’ve got a lot of great initiatives that Jeff got moving forward and Lori got moving forward. We’re going to continue forward with someone who can bring them home, whether that’s the rebranding of the organization or increasing the hotel tax to 5 percent."

Vasser said he sees many opportunities to grow tourism in central Pennsylvania and a commitment from community members and business leaders who are passionate about the area.

"It was tough [to leave] because in my short time I learned to love this community, the people and what a great opportunity there is to grow the tourism market here," he said. "There’s a lot to do and we could have so many new things that whoever takes my place will have a great opportunity in front of them."

Board members were understanding of his decision when he informed them on Tuesday.

"Everyone on the board I’ve spoken to so far has been very, very gracious," he said. "It put my mind at ease because I really felt horrible about going to them after they offered me this position and were so welcoming after I got here... They all said, ‘You need to put family first.’ That really says a lot about the community."

"It’s the risk you run when you have an extremely high-caliber candidate that they’re going to move on to something that is good for them and their family," Ricketts added. "I think the state appointment in New Jersey is the opportunity of a lifetime."

Vasser said he is optimistic about the future of the bureau and its work.

"The board, the staff and the community members I’ve met so far, everybody is just passionate about the community. Everybody is passionate about the growth and opportunities we’re going to have with the growth and development going on in this area," he said. "There’s a lot going on here and that gives me as a tourism marketing person, and the staff and the board, just great opportunity to do more things.

"All the stakeholders I’ve met are very passionate about what they do and passionate about the community and how do we make it better. It just permeates this whole area. Everybody loves this place, is passionate about what they do and passionate about being a team and taking it to the next step."

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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