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Mayor cites conflict in removing chairwoman from city tourism commission
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Mayor cites conflict in removing chairwoman from city tourism commission

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The chairwoman of Lake Geneva’s city commission on tourism has been removed after serving on the commission since it was created.

Tammie Carstensen, general manager of the Harbor Shores on Lake Geneva hotel, was denied reappointment to the Lake Geneva Tourism Commission because of concerns about a conflict.

Mayor Charlene Klein said she decided to seek Carstensen’s removal because of a possible conflict with Carstensen’s serving on the board of the VISIT Lake Geneva tourism promotion group.

Klein said having a person in both positions could be perceived as a conflict of interest. The mayor, however, added that she could be wrong about the possible conflict.

“I haven’t been able to attend all the tourism commission meetings,” Klein said, “so I’m not saying there was one (conflict).”

The city council on June 22 agreed to support the mayor’s changes on the tourism commission, where Carstensen had been a member since the commission was established in 2017, and had served as chairwoman since last year.

The tourism commission is funded by Lake Geneva hotel room taxes to promote tourism events, including by allocating funds directly to outside groups planning events that could draw visitors to the city.

Carstensen said she has served on VISIT Lake Geneva’s board for about 20 years, and she was disappointed to learn she was being removed from the city commission.

“At first, I was like, ‘What?,’” she said. “I have a passion for Lake Geneva. Everything I do is for the good of Lake Geneva.”

VISIT Lake Geneva in 2017 honored Carstensen with its yearly outstanding citizen award in the region.

VISIT Lake Geneva is a tourism bureau and chamber of commerce organization that gets hotel room tax dollars to promote and plan major events in Lake Geneva and surrounding communities.

Klein said VISIT Lake Geneva serves as a tourism marketing entity for the city, and often approaches the tourism commission for grant funding to help promote events.

Klein, who was elected mayor April 7, said she wanted to appoint some new people to the city commission.

“I guess I felt it would be good to get some new people,” she said. “Since Tammie was already on the VISIT Lake Geneva board, I thought it worked out well.”

In addition to Carstensen, the mayor removed John Trione and Alderwoman Shari Straube from the tourism commission. The new appointees are Zakia Pirizada, Linda Moritz and newly elected Alderwoman Mary Jo Fesenmaier.

Klein also reappointed commission members Brian Waspi, Dana Trilla and Alderman Richard Hedlund.

The commission has not yet met to elect a new chairman.

Commission members serve one-year terms.

In the past few years, the commission has approved funding for community events and activities such as Oktoberfest, Wine Walk, Santa Cruise, Magical Musings, Artic Frog Marathon and the ice castle.

The ice castle made a successful debut in Lake Geneva in 2019, but then the seasonal winter attraction relocated to the neighboring town of Geneva.

Carstensen also helped to oversee creation of a new “tourism cheerleader” position for the city, which brought Stephanie Copsey on board as marketing director for the city-owned Riviera.

“There’s a lot of great things we’ve done,” Carstensen said. “We handed out a lot of grants to help bring tourists to Lake Geneva.”

Other members of the tourism commission could not be reached for comment about the mayor’s new appointments.

Carstensen said being a member of the city commission as well as VISIT Lake Geneva and managing Harbor Shores has kept her busy, but she has enjoyed the responsibilities.

“I didn’t mind it,” she said. “I got to know so many people.”

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