Steve Ward, the city’s tourism director, died the evening of Oct. 8, of an apparent heart attack.
Vin Paitoon, Ward’s predecessor as head of tourism, called it “a very unfortunate loss for the community.
“Steve Ward was one of the last people here that was around when then dam was built,” he added. “Having that knowledge of the area’s history and personal experience was a real asset to the town and industry. To top it off, he was really a nice guy too.”
Ward was chairman of the tourism advisory board — and the area’s film commissioner — when he applied to be tourism director, a position that had been revised to become part of city staff, reporting to City Manager Rick Olson.
Paitoon, who had been doing the job as an independent contractor, opted not to apply for the staff position.
Those in the industry and city officials were hoping Ward could provide the stability and soothing influence that’s been missing for the last couple of years.
The relationship between council and the tourism advisory board has often been strained, even dysfunctional. All but one member of the previous board resigned en masse last October. Ward was among those who replaced them.
Six candidates sought the tourism director position. Ward and Dwayne Cassidy, the area’s tourism coordinator from 2002 to 2010, were the board’s recommendations to city council.
Councilors selected Ward on Sept. 12. Two weeks later, they approved a one-year, $60,000 contract with him.
“We were really looking forward to see what Steve could do this year,” Olson said Oct. 9.
The tourism director position will remain vacant until the advisory board can meet and decide on what steps to take next, according to Olson.
He added that the Balloon Regatta — perhaps the city’s biggest event — is being handled by a sub-committee, so he does not anticipate any problems. The Regatta is scheduled Nov. 1-4.
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