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Moving on from 2020 without Rita

I saw a joke the other day on the internet saying that “2020” is going to be considered a term used for profanity. We have a new four-letter word in our vernacular.

I laughed (we all need to do that these days). But indeed, I can’t believe it’s the end of the year. Let’s put 2020 in our rear-view mirror and look forward to a great 2021.

We’ve all had our challenges this year, but one of the things I’m celebrating (not because I want her gone), is that our beloved Rita Simon is retiring. I’m happy for her, hopefully, she will be on the golf course every day, playing under bluebird skies. This is the woman who literally has held your Chamber of Commerce together for 21 years.

Rita has never asked for kudos – in fact, she’d rather not have them and probably wishes that I would not write this.

Most people don’t know the inner workings of the Chamber of Commerce. Well, I’m the front guy who talks a lot and is a professional “meeting-goer,” but it has been Rita who has made this Chamber thrive. She’s the one who coordinates all the beneficial programs for our business community – such as Lunch & Learn, Chamber “Youniversity,” the monthly Business After Hours – oversaw our “Dips,” the incredibly popular Girls Gone Golfing and, of course, Durango Rocks! ... and so much more. She has continually advanced her skills and creative ideas networking with Chambers throughout the country, bringing programs and ideas to Durango and helping our businesses and our community to excel. In my book, she is the national Chamber guru of the year!

Rita has been the stalwart employee through all the transitions of DACRA to the current Chamber structure ... from working through the old Durango Area Chamber and Resort Association days, helping Joel Jones, who was interim director back in the day (and who loved her), to helping Bobby Lieb, my predecessor, figure out how to do his job. I’m not being disrespectful to Bobby, because he loves her, too. She also figured out how to integrate all the various entities, such as the tourism office, Local First, BID and more, making it all work. She’s a master at sharing information so you know what’s going on.

Rita was accepted to Leadership La Plata back in the day (well, that was a no-brainer), and she experienced Phil Bryson’s “Social Styles” exercise. It’s how we in LLP can learn about “who” people are and how to work with others ... Expressives, Analyticals, Drivers and Amiables. Not a surprise that Rita is an Amiable. You will never find a more amenable, kind, wonderful person than Rita – oh, and I forgot smart.

We all will miss her calming, steady, organized management of the Chamber.

As Rita transitions, we welcome Kim Oyler to our chamber staff. We’re confident the Chamber management will be in good hands, as Kim’s experience includes working in Washington, D.C., director of the Colorado Tourism Organization and leadership at Purgatory Resort. The combination is pretty awesome for our Durango Chamber of Commerce.

But this is a salute to Rita, and I know she’s going to be mad at me for writing this – but, get over it, girl, you deserve every moment of praise that we can give you. Thank you again for always being there.

Jack Llewellyn is executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at jack@durangobusiness.org.