Stephanie Klett at Elkhorn Oktoberfest

Stephanie Klett, left, made a 2017 stop at Elkhorn Oktoberfest as state tourism secretary, shown getting into the spirit of the event with Eddie Kobesko and Tim Shiroda. (File photo/Regional News)

A former secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism has been named the new president and CEO of VISIT Lake Geneva, offering what she calls “endless” possibilities for promoting tourism locally.

The VISIT Lake Geneva board of directors announced March 6 that Stephanie Klett has been selected to succeed Ed Svitak, who resigned in December.

Michael Jackson, chairman of the VISIT Lake Geneva board, said Klett’s background and experience make her an exciting choice to take over promoting tourism in the Lake Geneva region.

“She has been a visionary in the world of tourism and brings great energy and exceptional skills to our organization,” Jackson said. “We have strong confidence in her ability to advance Lake Geneva’s interests with her proven management, marketing and communication experience.”

Klett, who grew up in Beloit, was appointed the state’s secretary of tourism in 2011 by then-Gov. Scott Walker. She continued in the position for eight years until Walker lost his bid for re-election.

She also hosted the “Discover Wisconsin” television and radio series for about 18 years.

She is scheduled to begin her new job with VISIT Lake Geneva on April 8.

Klett said she was thrilled to be taking the helm at VISIT Lake Geneva.

“It’s the perfect time for me to start working in the Lake Geneva area,” she said. “Lake Geneva has always been special to me. The possibilities are endless.”

Svitak announced his resignation Dec. 7 after just 16 months on the job, saying he was disappointed by what he described as a lack of support and “self serving” within the VISIT Lake Geneva board. He later said the organization should be restructured as two organizations — one focused on tourism and one serving as a chamber of commerce.

VISIT board members have not publicly discussed Svitak’s call for restructuring, but instead moved forward with the search to replace him. They previously indicated that they had about 15 candidates for the position, although none were identified publicly until Klett’s hiring was announced.

VISIT Lake Geneva was established in 2016 as a merger between the local convention bureau and the chamber of commerce. The group is run by a 16-member board that includes representatives of the local business community.

Klett said she was aware of recent issues surrounding VISIT Lake Geneva, but said she looks forward to working with the board members and the staff to move the organization forward. She said she had already met several of the board members.

“Every organization has its ebbs and flows. Every organization has its ups and downs,” she said. “I’m impressed with the knowledge and the skill sets of the different board members.”

Of the idea of breaking up VISIT Lake Geneva into two groups, Klett said she would have to become more familiar with the organization before considering such a proposal.

“The first few months, I want to look at the structure of organization and its structural plan,” she said. “I would have to take a look at all of that before I could answer that question.”

Jackson said VISIT Lake Geneva board members are opposed to such a restructuring.

“Our decision was to use our current structure,” he said.

Klett’s arrival also comes as Lake Geneva city officials are asserting themselves more vigorously in the tourism industry, hiring their own staff and launching a new “Meet at the Lake” marketing campaign.

Bridget Leech, executive director of the city’s Lake Geneva Business Improvement District, said she looked forward to working with Klett.

“I can’t wait to meet her,” Leech said. “I’m looking forward to sitting down and sharing ideas with her.”

During her tenure as state tourism secretary, Klett worked periodically with Svitak and others at VISIT Lake Geneva.

She talked about wanting to build on past successes locally and to increase tourism from Chicago, Milwaukee and elsewhere, especially repeat visitors.

“I want people to come to the Lake Geneva area and fall in love with it,” she said. “The more they fall in love with it, the more likely they are to come back.”