Tourism finds new leader

Lander named interim visitor chief

“I have my dream job,” said Susan Lander, who has been named the interim director of the Durango Area Tourism Office. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

“I have my dream job,” said Susan Lander, who has been named the interim director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.

It’s been a whirlwind couple of months for Susan Lander since she left her role as executive director of Music in the Mountains after being at the helm for almost 11 years.

Since stepping down from the nonprofit, Lander has sailed to Mexico, started her own business and been named interim director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.

“It’s a really exciting opportunity. I’m here to hold the line while the board figures out what it wants to do,” she said.

Lander was offered the job June 25, and she is contracted for one to three months while the board of directors decides what it wants in an executive director and starts the search for a permanent director.

Former DATO Executive Director John Cohen resigned in May after leading the office for about six years. He thinks Lander is the perfect fit as interim director.

“I can’t imagine anyone else in town that I’d rather see leading DATO at this point,” Cohen said. “She was a great board member and understands what the tourism office is all about.”

Lander was a member of the DATO board through her role with Music in the Mountains.

Eleven people applied for the position, but Lander’s knowledge of the inner workings of DATO and her experience running a nonprofit made her a great fit, said Kristen Muraro, DATO board member and events coordinator for Ska Brewing Co.

“She could step in and assume the role as executive director of an organization pretty easily,” she said. “We want to keep the organization strong and keep it moving forward ... and she’s worked with some of the staff before.”

Lander also was executive director of the Women’s Resource Center for about seven years before taking on her role at Music in the Mountains, and the temporary job works well for Lander as it fits with the nonprofit consulting business she started during the last month.

All the applicants applied knowing they could not be considered for the full-time executive director position.

The board didn’t want an interim to have an unfair advantage over other applicants because they would have a better base knowledge of how DATO is run, board member Bob Kunkel said.

DATO won’t begin the search for a new director until after the USA Pro Cycling Challenge takes place in August, he said.

After that, Kunkel’s position will see some changes, too; he plans to step down as executive director of the Durango Business Improvement District in September.

Kunkel is also the downtown business development manager for Durango, and he said the amount of work for both jobs has become too much.

“The responsibility and time requirements of the combined positions have grown beyond the capabilities of one person,” BID board member Bob Allen said in an email. “The change gives the BID an opportunity to reassess current and future needs, as well as BID staff structure.”

Kunkel receives a salary from the city and $18,000 from his contract with BID.

He will continue to closely work with the organization through his work with the city, and his office will remain in BID.

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