Last fall, Jennifer Wesselhoff stepped into a new role as president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Convention and Visitor Bureau, following in the footsteps of Bill Malone, who retired in October after a 21-year career with the chamber. With the change in job title came a change of scenery for Wesselhoff, who moved to the mountains of Park City from the red-rock landscape of Sedona, Arizona, where she had served as president/CEO of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau since 2006. We chatted with Wesselhoff to learn more about her vision for Park City in 2021.
Park City Magazine: Welcome to Park City! First things first: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
JENNIFER WESSELHOFF: I was born and raised in the Cleveland area, so I am definitely ready for cold weather and snow! I’ve had jobs ranging from working on garbage trucks to helping run hostels in Switzerland. Before joining the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau, I taught English in Japan. I have bachelor’s degrees in French and Communications from Miami University, and I am comfortably conversant in three foreign languages.
My husband, Rick, and I love to travel; we also love running, biking, and hiking, and I am a beginner skier (soon to be less so!). We settled in Sedona for a couple of reasons, including the city’s natural beauty and the opportunity to come into contact with people from all over on a daily basis—I get energy and inspiration from hearing other points of view. I see that same beauty and can feel that same energy in Park City, which made the opportunity to come here very attractive. Also, I absolutely love film as an art form and entertainment medium, which is another reason I was drawn to Park City.
PCM: What were some of the highlights of your time in Sedona?
JW: As president/CEO, I directed the Sedona Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Bureau, Visitor Center, Sedona Film Office, and the RunSedona event. It was an extremely exciting period when Sedona grew to be an internationally known destination welcoming three million visitors a year.
PCM: Are there ways in which Sedona and Park City are similar?
JW: Park City and Sedona are roughly the same size in terms of population, and each has tremendous environmental attributes that are unique and incredibly special. Each has experienced rapid growth as a destination in the past 20 years, and each has wrestled with the challenges that brings, such as traffic, resident quality of life, environmental impacts, and the quality of the visitor experience. These are interconnected impacts that we must look at with a holistic, strategic approach.
Park City is continuing to establish itself as a world-class food destination, and Sedona has seen reputational growth in that area, too. I am blown away by the incredible diversity and quality of Park City’s dining scene—both as the Chamber/Bureau president and CEO and as a hard-core foodie! The food scene is such a critical part of our economy and tourism marketing strategy, and I foresee a bright future.
PCM: What has surprised you most about Park City since moving here?
JW: The overall positivity of people who work here. There is genuine passion for Park City, and there’s a generosity in the community that is more than just financial. Strolling historic Main Street represents a unique combination of sophistication and small-town charm, and I’ve enjoyed discovering the town’s abundance of great restaurants and shops—so many of them locally owned and operated. Living and working in Prospector/Park Meadows, I’ve enjoyed access to the trails and have really come to appreciate the geographic interconnectivity—being able to run and ride my bike from my neighborhood to every part of town has been very enjoyable.
PCM: What is your main focus in your new role?
JW: The Chamber of Commerce is most focused on business recovery—keeping our businesses open and our employees and visitors safe. We are an organization that is focused on the economic health of our community, and in times of crisis we feel the burden of that mission more than ever. Local businesses are looking to us for answers, and our marketing programs attracting commerce here are more important now than ever before. At the same time, we have always stressed the importance of following the guidance of our local health authorities, and we have been successful at walking that fine line of “Stay Safe to Stay Open.” By following health recommendations, our businesses have been able to continue to operate—and this is a formula for success.
PCM: What is the Chamber focused on in the year ahead?
JW: While keeping the pulse of now, we want to be thoughtful about the future. Our Chamber has a strategic plan that ends in 2021, and we will be spending this year developing our new strategic plan so that we can come out of the year with new focus for the organization as it relates to the community’s priorities. In Sedona, we became a leader in the area of sustainable tourism. Park City has already set nation-leading goals in the areas of carbon neutrality, and if the community wants us to create new sustainability goals for its business and tourism communities, I will certainly be in a position to share what we learned and achieved in Sedona.
PCM: What are you most excited about for Parkites in 2021?
JW: Park City is a town of genuine connection, and Covid-19 has stood in the way of us living our best lives. I am most excited for 2021 bringing us back together through the events we enjoy, renewing the festivals and gatherings that brighten our calendars, and welcoming visitors back without fear or trepidation. I believe 2021 will be the year that sees us really reconnecting with each other and taking the time to appreciate all the aspects of Park City life that we may have taken for granted in the past.