Stoller steps down after 15 years, Steamboat Chamber begins search for new leader
Kara Stoller, chief executive officer of the Steamboat Springs Chamber, announced Thursday, Nov. 10, she is stepping down as the organization’s leader in January.
“Kara’s impact in our community is immeasurable,” Sarah Fox, board president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber, wrote in a news release. “She has given her heart and soul to better our community, and we thank her for her relentless support of our local businesses and her commitment to keep our economy thriving.”
Stoller leaves behind a legacy that stretches back 15 years. She started in 2007 as the special events and sponsorship director, transitioning to the organization’s marketing director in 2011 and was promoted to lead the organization as CEO in 2017.
Under her leadership, the chamber has created the Thrive Together Women’s Leadership Summit and the Young Professionals Network, among other programs. She led the rebranding and reorganization effort, which launched in 2018, as well as creating OktoberWest and co-led multiple iterations of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge when it came to Steamboat.
“I’m most proud of the creation of Thrive Together Women’s Leadership Summit. We just had the fifth annual event on Friday, and we had over 250 women there having the opportunity to convene, and put time into themselves and their growth,” Stoller said. “I’m really proud and honored to have been part of creating that event.”
The strength of Stoller’s leadership was apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, and she was honored when board of directors surprised her with a special recognition for her triumphs, leadership, dedication and compassion through COVID-19 at the 2021 Navigator Awards.
During that difficult year, she was a key contributor to the creation of the countywide transition plan, restaurant re-opening plan and 14 industry work groups. Her work helped businesses keep their doors open and staff working during an uncertain and challenging time.
However, the chamber faced headwinds planning for 2023 after its request for $975,000 to fund promotion and destination management drew criticisms from Steamboat Springs City Council members and was reduced to $500,000.
While a majority of council members said they supported the destination management aspect of the proposal, which would fund outreach programs to inform tourists about responsible visitorship, most council members were sour on the marketing aspect of the chamber’s request.
During the budget retreat, Stoller told council members that if the chamber received less than its requested amount, she and her staff would have to make cuts to their media buys, administration costs, research, creative investments and public relations. Stoller added that public relations work would be cut completely from the budget.
“I’m absolutely stunned. I didn’t see it coming at all,” Steamboat Springs City Council President Robin Crossan said of Stoller’s announcement. “She’s always been very professional and very forthright, and very honest.”
Adonna Allen, a business leader and former Steamboat Springs Chamber Board member, believes Stoller’s departure is a loss, but she is sure that Stoller will find success moving forward.
“The chamber has been really fortunate to have Kara at our helm. She stepped in and managed and led our community through some really tough times,” Allen said. “I’m grateful that she has grown with our community and really led to the extent that she did. It speaks a lot about her character and who she is that she has managed as well with what she was given, and I’m certainly going to miss her as our chamber leader. I wish her all the best because I know she’s going to be successful wherever she lands. She’s a really capable person.”
Stoller will remain in her current role until Jan. 27, at which point she says she will pursue new adventures.
“It was incredibly important to me to provide as much notice as possible, so that I can ensure a smooth transition not only to the team, but the board and the full membership,” Stoller said. “The next step for me is yet to be determined.”
Stoller said she isn’t sure what the future holds for her, but she is ready for some new experiences.
“I’ve learned and grown so much over the last 15 years, and I’m eternally grateful for all of the experiences that I’ve been able to have,” Stoller said. “I am also ready for some new experiences and to push myself in new ways, so it’s a great time to hand over the reins to a new leader for the organization.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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