In my last column, I described the history and background of my predecessor. In today’s column, I thought it might be a good idea to tell you a little about myself and my goals for the Durango Area Tourism Office.
I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, attending my first Chicago Cub game at 5 years of age. The person who brought me to that game, my Uncle John, still brings me to Wrigley Field when I visit him. And, as most of you know, the Cubs have had a history of losing until recently, when they came from behind to beat the Cleveland Indians in extra innings in the last game of the World Series last year. November 1, 2016 was the best day of my life! (Perhaps with the exception of the birth of my daughter.)
I finished college in the Midwest and immediately hitchhiked to the West Coast and caught a one-way ticket to Hawaii, a tropical paradise that I had never been to before. After a year-and-a-half of renting cars in Waikiki, I went to Europe, spending about 6 months in Italy making wine and learning to speak Italian. I returned home broke and worked in my dad’s machine shop until I started law school. Three days after graduation, and after two of the worst winters in the history of Chicago, I was back in Hawaii studying and passing the Hawaii Bar Exam.
I stayed in Hawaii and built a successful law practice and a reputation as an effective mediator who could settle even the most thorny cases. I also trained all of the Family Court Judges and most of the Family Lawyers mediation and other conflict resolution techniques. Most of my original training as a negotiator came around the dinner table as a child or at Thanksgiving dinner with my Greek family, debating or arguing every issue under the sun.
After 30 years of law practice, I sold my firm to my younger partners, and became President of a prestigious country club in Hawaii where we hosted among others, the newly elected president, Barack Obama. The President, who ironically grew up in Hawaii and moved to Chicago, admitted that his wife, Michelle was a Cubs fan.
Many rounds of golf and a year later, my wife June and I, my dog Boulder and our cat Valentine moved to Durango. We drove the thousand-mile trip from Long Beach, California, to Durango, where we stopped at Cocina Linda’s for a tamale and a beer before proceeding to our new house. That, also, was a great day. Our two adult daughters, born and raised in Hawaii had preceded us to Colorado and relocated to the Boulder area after graduating from college. They could not convince us to move there.
Over the past six years, I have been an active member of the Durango community as a county planning commissioner. During that period, I managed two local political campaigns and advised on several others. I also wrote a book published by the American Bar Association, and four journal articles on the business side of running a law practice. For two years, and in between my planning commission hearings, I toured the country as a lecturer on the best business practices of running a small law firm.
I was hired as Deputy Director of the Durango Area Tourism Office on May 1 and took the reigns as Executive Director on July 1.
This week I am up in Aspen attending the DMA West Leadership Summit for Executive Directors in my industry. DMA stands for Destination Marketing Association, and DATO is a Destination Marketing Organization. That is, we “market” Durango and the surrounding area as a desirable visitor destination, to the rest of the world.
I am here at the Summit to discuss and learn issues relevant to what is now the No. 1 industry in La Plata County: Tourism. Yes, that’s right, the Region 9 Economic Development District (which includes La Plata County) declared Tourism responsible for more jobs in our county than any other industry. Tourism has grown since 2014 when it provided 18 percent of the jobs in our county, to 2017 where it now provides 26 percent of our jobs. In three short years, the tourism industry has grown a stunning 44 percent!
My initial goal this first year is to develop or improve DATO’s working relationships with many of the major economic influencers and thought leaders in our area. These organizations include The Train, Purgatory, The Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Mesa Verde Park & Museum, the Durango City Council, the La Plata County commissioners, Durango Chamber of Commerce, the La Plata Economic Development Alliance, the Business Improvement District, Local First, the Green Business Roundtable, The Colorado Restaurant Association, The Airport & Airport Commission and the Durango Hotel & Lodgers Association, as well as the County Sheriff’s Office and the Durango Police Department, in order to decide, as a community, what kind of future we desire here in Durango and La Plata County.
How we go about doing that and what specific economic and life-style goals we want to achieve is the subject for my next column. In the meantime, please visit http://www.durango.org for more information on what DATO does and how we operate.
email@example.com. Frank Lockwood is executive director of the Durango Area Tourism Office.