City Manager Brian Snyder and Jim Luttjohann, executive director of the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau, sat down at 4 p.m. Thursday for a face-to-face meeting in Snyder’s office at City Hall. Within 30 minutes, Luttjohann had submitted a one-sentence letter of resignation “effective immediately,” and in less than three hours, the city had announced that a new executive director was on board.
“I wanted to make a move in what I believe is the right direction for moving the CVB and the city forward,” Snyder said Friday. The personnel change had already been in the works, indicating that Luttjohann, who had held the city job since August 2012, was about to be shown the door.
The new executive director, Randy Randall, who has had a 45-year career in the tourism industry, including 10 years as general manager of the Eldorado Hotel, said he had been having discussions in recent weeks not only with Snyder but Mayor Javier Gonzales, who was elected last month. The discussions centered around how the city, which is heavily reliant on the tourism industry, could raise the bar and whether Randall was interested in “coming on board and implementing some of those things,” Randall said.
“The city manager reached out to me yesterday morning and said, ‘I think that the timing is right. How soon would you be available to come in and take over?’ I said, ‘Probably the first of the week,’ ” said Randall, who will be paid $110,000. People in the local tourism industry said the city made the right move by hiring Randall.
“Santa Fe is a great city. It deserves a breath of fresh air that Randy Randall represents,” said Chris Madden, who served as sales manager for the Convention and Visitors Bureau until her departure earlier this year. “It’s a good thing for Santa Fe,” she said. “With a new administration, the CVB deserves a change, and Randy Randall is a perfect choice to enact that change. He is a strong businessman. He runs a tight and reasonable ship. He knows his numbers. That, to me, has always been a good businessperson, someone who knows where every dollar and cent exists on the ledger on every given time.”
Paul Margetson, manager of Hotel Santa Fe and chairman of a mayor-appointed group that is examining the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he is “delighted” that the city tapped Randall. “I think he knows the industry inside out,” Margetson said. “He was smart enough to give me the job 26 years ago to run the Eldorado,” he said, jokingly. Simon Brackley, president and CEO of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, said Randall is “truly a travel professional.”
“I look forward to working with him to continue to grow our tourism industry,” he said. “I think his hotel experience will help give a stronger voice to the hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts, and his experience as tourism commissioner for the state of New Mexico will help us to work with the state Department of Tourism and collaborate on their marketing strategies,” said Brackley, who declined to comment about Luttjohann. Margetson said Luttjohann did a “good job” but that change is inevitable.
“I think he was — What’s the word I’m looking for? — knowledgeable,” Margetson said. “I just wish he’d been a little more knowledgeable about the hotel industry. I don’t think he came from that background and understood the challenges that we have. But I think he’s a good guy, and I liked him. But we have a new mayor, we have a new administration, and it was just time for change, I think. Randy’s got personality, and maybe we needed a bit more personality and perhaps even leadership.” Luttjohann (pronounced LUTE-yo-han) could not be reached for comment. He worked previously as the tourism director in Ventura, Calif., but he said in a 2012 interview that he had visited Santa Fe and the region frequently since childhood. He and his partner have had a second home on East Alameda Street since 2001, he said at the time.
Luttjohann took over the job from interim Director Jim Bradbury, who was appointed to the post in April 2011 after Keith Toler resigned. A City Hall insider said the city has had seven executive directors at the Convention and Visitors Bureau in the last 12 years.
Randall, who retired in 2004, said he is well-suited for the job. “It comes from an understanding of both sales and marketing and operations,” he said. “I’m not one or the other. I’m kind of a combination of all of those. I think it comes from knowing what success is and how to get there.”
Randall said he’s always felt that the concept of privatizing the Santa Fe Community Convention Center, which has been funded with city Lodgers Tax revenue and user fees, should be considered.
“That being said, it’s not on my agenda to accomplish at this point because I think both the city manager and the mayor have made it clear that they don’t think that’s the best approach,” he said. “As director of the center, I’ve got to appreciate their opinion.”
Randall said part of his job is to make sure the city has a marketing effort that is “properly designed and properly implemented.”
“It’s really more than just a convention center. It’s how the CVB can interact with tourism as a whole in the city,” he said. “I think we’ve got to kind of get back to some basic blocking and tackling, if you will.”
Randall said he also wants to evaluate how the bureau is spending its money.
“We have to make sure we have a clear vision of where we want to go and that all of our expenditures are focused on that vision,” he said. “It may mean that we can’t do everything. But we have to do the things that we do do very well.”
Contact Daniel J. Chacón at 986-3089 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @danieljchacon.