Head of Duluth tourism bureau to step downTerry Mattson, president and CEO of Visit Duluth, on Monday announced his plans to step down after the 23rd annual Amsoil Duluth National Snocross event at Spirit Mountain this winter.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
Terry Mattson, president and CEO of Visit Duluth, on Monday announced his plans to step down after the 23rd annual Amsoil Duluth National Snocross event at Spirit Mountain this winter.
Mattson, 51, has led Visit Duluth since 1990 and received an award as Minnesota’s “Outstanding Individual in Tourism” earlier this year. He began working at the then-Duluth Convention & Visitors Bureau in 1985.
Mattson said his decision to leave Visit Duluth stemmed from a combination of factors.
In a reflective statement issued Monday, Mattson said: “I absolutely love selling Duluth, but 28 years is a long time to be in a position today. It has been an extreme privilege to help grow Duluth’s tourism industry. And I’ve really come to appreciate that it’s important to stop and smell the roses, too.
“I plan on doing more of that, whether at our family farm in northern Wisconsin, on the open road on my Harley or winding through wooded snowmobile trails.”
But Mattson doesn’t plan a full-on retirement. He said he has been approached about consulting on tourism projects in Key West, Fla., and Los Angeles. Mattson said he’s also interested in opportunities outside the tourism industry and will assist in the search for his successor at Visit Duluth.
Mattson’s announcement came as “a bit of a surprise,” said Gerry Goldfarb, chairman of Visit Duluth’s board of directors.
During Mattson’s tenure, the direct impact of Duluth’s tourism industry has grown from $80 million to about $800 million per year, according to Visit Duluth.
“I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished as a team, but I felt it was just time to move on to the next challenge,” Mattson said.
Mattson was instrumental in launching Duluth’s popular Tall Ship festivals and organizing the Snocross snowmobile event that draws national attention to Spirit Mountain during Thanksgiving weekend each year.
Goldfarb credits Mattson for successfully spearheading flood-recovery efforts and a campaign to let the rest of the state know that Duluth’s hospitality industry still was open for business despite the scenes of destruction that proliferated in the media in the wake of the June 2012 deluge.
In spite of all the plaudits, Mattson has endured his share of scrutiny. A tourism task force made note of several concerns with Visit Duluth in 2012, including the unwieldy size of its board of directors, the weakness of its financial controls, its governance and potential conflicts of interest. Those are issues the organization since has successfully worked to resolve, Mattson said.
“I feel confident I’m leaving Visit Duluth on solid footing,” he said. “It’s a stellar organization with a great staff of professionals.”
Goldfarb praised Mattson for his leadership, saying: “On behalf of the Visit Duluth board, I thank Terry for his 28 years of dedicated service to Duluth’s tourism industry. From his leadership in starting Snocross in 1991 to most recently organizing the extremely successful Tall Ships 2013, which is arguably Duluth’s largest event ever, Terry has always been a visionary leader. We wish him well and appreciate all he has done for Duluth and its tourism industry.”
He said that Mattson will leave a strong management team behind when he leaves, but replacing him won’t be easy.
“After nearly 24 years of leading Visit Duluth, Terry brought vast knowledge, experience and great connections to his job,” Goldfarb said. “He leaves big shoes to fill. It will definitely be a challenge to replace someone like that.”
Mattson plans to remain on the job until December.