By Carla O’Day
The Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority (RSCVA) interviewed Thursday the top two candidates for its CEO position, which has been unfilled for more than a year.
RSCVA used New York-based Lapham Group Inc. to help with its search. Lapham’s search fee will be one-third of the successful candidate’s first year cash compensation, with a $100,000 minimum fee.
Philip DeLone, CEO of Safari Club International, and Richard Peterson, S&P Consulting president and CEO, both gave presentations and took questions from the board.
Chairman Bob Lucey, a Washoe County commissioner, said he plans to call a special meeting soon to vote on a candidate and discuss salary.
“We will take the next steps as expediently as possible,” Lucey said.
Citing vague reasons, the board terminated former CEO Chris Baum’s contract in October 2015. Baum had been with the organization almost four years and had received a three-year contract extension just eight months prior. Jennifer Cunningham, executive director of marketing, has been filling the CEO role in the interim. RSCVA has had four CEOs in the last 10 years. Two were seated, two were interim.
DeLone has been CEO of the Tucson, Ariz.-based Safari Club since 2012. Prior to that, he had been executive director of sales at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino since 1996. Five years earlier, DeLone was executive director of the Safari Club, his resume states. His first stint in Reno was 1987-1991 at Bally’s Casino Resort, which later became the Grand Sierra Resort, as assistant vice president and sales and marketing director. He’s also held posts in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
DeLone said he was already familiar with area hotels, casinos, convention facilities and customer bases that come to the Reno area. In his first 100 days on the job, DeLone said he’d visit with every RSCVA employee, review budgets, evaluate what’s going on and what could change.
Board member Mike Hix, who represents the Chamber of Commerce, asked both candidates about their experience with facility management.
“I’ve booked a lot and know what to look for,” DeLone said. “I have a good eye for cost and the key is to keep at or under budget, keep them clean and keep them up to date.”
For instance, the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center has no WiFi and that would be one of the first things DeLone said he’d address as CEO.
Peterson has overseen convention hotels and facilities for Hilton and has experience with union and non-union venues. He has also been director of sales and business partnerships of the California Academy of Sciences, where he dealt with weight loads and noise restrictions.
“It’s 200,000 square feet of exhibit and museum space that was transformed almost every day for events for 50 to 5,000 people,” Peterson said.
Peterson is president and CEO of San Francisco-based S&P, which provides tourism, marketing, strategic planning and business development services. His resume indicates he’s facilitated and participated in targeted marketing, public relations and sales programs domestically and overseas. He had previously been executive vice president of Santa Monica Travel & Tourism. Between 2005-2008, he was the Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau’s senior director of travel industry and tourism development.
Board member and Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve noted Peterson has experience in the No. 1 market the region caters to and asked him what advice he might have to increase traffic from Northern California.
Peterson, who’s been coming to the Reno area the past 30 years, suggested a “Silicon Desert.”
“You should be having product launches and staff retreats because they’re doing business here already,” Peterson said.
Goals for Peterson’s first 100 days include implementing a timeline for RSCVA’s five-year strategic plan, but updating it each year and informing stakeholders; meeting with employees and determining if they’re in the right position; a financial review of the organization; and having staff create short- and long-term plans for feeder markets.
Both candidates said they’d work to increase air service into Reno-Tahoe International Airport and work with airlines that already have international flights into Las Vegas.