Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Wausau CVB leader to head chamber

by John Halverson

October 31, 2013

The search is over.
The Geneva Lake Area Chamber of Commerce has a new president.
His name is Darien Schaefer.
Schaefer is coming from the Wausau/ Central Wisconsin Convention and Visitors Bureau, where he’s served as executive director since 2000.
That group, headquartered in Wausau, promotes the surrounding area including Rib Mountain, Schofield, Rothschild and Mosinee.
During his tenure there, the bureau took over the Badger State Games, and he became its executive director.
His hiring was announced by John Stensland, chairman of the board for the local chamber, late last week.
“He has the drive and energy Lake Geneva needs,” Stensland told the Regional News.
Schaefer grew up in Wisconsin Dells and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Hotel and Restaurant Management.
His early work experience included stints with the Marriott Corp., which operates hotels throughout the world, and as an area director for Tharaldson Lodging overseeing 13 hotels.
And Schaefer was executive director of the Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau from 1998-2000.
“My wife and I are very excited about the move and I’m really excited to start,” Schaefer told the Regional News in an email.
Schaefer said he was familiar with Lake Geneva, in part, because of his former job in Janesville.
He is expected to start Nov. 25.
A public meet-and-greet is tentatively set for Dec. 4 at the Riviera.
The position of president has been vacant since May when the chamber announced the retirement of George Hennerley, who led the chamber for 33 years.
Schaefer was hired after a nationwide search conducted by SearchWide, an executive recruiting firm with expertise in the hospitality business.
In its report to the chamber, SearchWide identified Schaefer as a “collaborative leader” with expertise in marketing.
“He views himself as an idea generator and he seems to be very creative,” the report said. “Very solid fundamentals and habits as it relates to media, public relations and creating co/op activities.”
SearchWide came up with 67 “qualified candidates” from applicants and from a pool of professionals who weren’t necessarily looking for another job, Stensland said.
That was honed down to 15 semi-finalists, which was reduced to five after discussions with a chamber search committee.
Those five were interviewed by the committee earlier this month.

The two finalists were interviewed again over a two-day period.
Members of that committee were Stensland, who operates the Martin Group, Tammie Carstensen, general manager of Harbor Shores, Tom Hartz, owner of Simple Café, Steven J. Lois of Edward Jones Investment and Tom Hyslop, director of sales and marketing at Lake Lawn Resort.
Also assisting was Kevin Fleming, head of the chamber’s retail committee and owner of Flemings.
Stensland said the selection committee met Schaefer in a variety of settings including on a boat tour of Geneva Lake. The group was selected for its mix of personalities as well as their work experience, Stensland said.
Schaefer’s affiliation with the Badger Games and his experience in working in a resort-oriented location like Wausau were seen as pluses that could be adapted to Lake Geneva, committee members said.
The chamber and visitors bureau have made it known that they’d like to help turn Lake Geneva into more of a year-round attraction.
On its website, the Wausau Central Wisconsin Convention and Visitors Bureau promises “four seasons of outdoor recreation, a thriving arts community, entertaining festivals and events, diverse shopping and dining.”
The bureau purchased the Badger State Games two months after the Wisconsin Sports Development Corporation announced the end of the Olympic-style games. And in 2011, readers of Wisconsin Trails magazine named Wausau the “Best Town for Outdoor Activities” in Wisconsin.
The selection committee was also impressed with Schaefer’s analysis of the Chamber’s current budget. One of his references said he was “Good with crunching numbers.”
Schaefer is also expected to help update the local chamber’s footprint in new media including the development of a Facebook page.