Kelli McDonald, economic development manager for the Town of Vail, will be stepping down in September after 10 years on the job. McDonald’s last day with the town is Sept. 5.
McDonald was hired in 2007 and has been responsible for leading the town’s economic development, marketing and special events initiatives which has resulted in record visitation and significant sales tax revenue increases during 8 of the past 10 years with summer growth exceeding winter growth percentages during 5 of those years.
She has also been instrumental in helping to recruit major international events to Vail including the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships, now in its fifth year. In addition, McDonald served as a member of the Local Organizing Committee that helped plan the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships which brought additional international recognition to the valley. In recognition of her work, she was named Tourism Professional of the Year by the Vail Valley Partnership in 2015.
Formerly with Barnhart Advertising, Evans Group and Tracey Locke Advertising in Denver, McDonald relocated to Vail in 2002 after being hired by the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau (now Vail Valley Partnership) to be the vice president of marketing. Five years later, she was recruited to become the town’s first economic development manager.
In her new role with the town and working in concert with the Town Council, staff, Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council, Commission on Special Events, Vail Economic Advisory Council and the town’s strategic partners, most notably Vail Resorts, Vail Recreation District and Vail Valley Foundation, McDonald’s efforts have enjoyed significant success in raising the bar for Vail as an international brand that is envied and imitated across the country and around the world.
Beth Slifer, who chairs the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council, says McDonald has been a terrific influence for Vail. "Kelli has been a positive and delightful influence on the growth of tourism and consequently sales tax generated in Vail,” says Slifer. “Her deep knowledge of marketing, executive management skills, vision for the future of Vail and disciplined focus on goals has been a tremendous motivator for staff, volunteer advisors and outside vendors. Always considerate and diplomatic, Kelli has been a leader and mentor. She has established high standards and quality organizations which will be her legacy!”
Also giving high praise is Chris Jarnot, executive vice president – mountain division of Vail Resorts. “Kelli has been a tremendous partner going back to 2002. She was instrumental in creating one, unified approach to marketing the Vail brand year-round, and always brought a practical approach to collaborating with us and all stakeholders to create the best outcome for Vail. Our team will truly miss working with Kelli, and we wish her only the best in her retirement and hope to see her and Michael enjoying the mountain even more in her free time.”
Mayor Dave Chapin has witnessed McDonald’s influence in strengthening strategic alliances between the Town Council, VLMDAC and the Commission on Special Events first-hand during McDonald’s tenure. Kelli's knowledge and enthusiasm concerning all TOV processes and events is unprecedented,” he said. “She’s a great organizer and her unique ability to create collaboration among various business groups and departments is a true strength of hers. Personally, I truly will miss her.”
McDonald says it has been a pleasure working with the wonderfully dedicated and talented town staff. “The joys and challenges of collegiality as we did the town’s important work have made me a better professional, employee and person,” she said. “It is now time for me to celebrate my 40-plus year long career in brand development and pass the torch.”
In addition to McDonald, the Economic Development Office is staffed by a special events coordinator and event liaison specialist. The town is currently planning for the transition and preparing for the recruitment process to hire McDonald’s successor.