After overseeing a restructuring of staff, a major overhaul of the visitors bureau and the crafting of a new more enticing benefit package for members, Sarah Caron is resigning as executive director for the Crescent City-Del Norte County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau.
Caron's administrative support person, Kyle Clausen, is also stepping down, though both won't leave their positions until after the annual Fourth of July celebration, said Chamber President Melodee Mitchell. Caron advised the chamber's executive committee of her resignation Monday. On Friday, the chamber board of directors decided it would immediately seek someone new to take over the executive director and administrative assistant role, Mitchell said.
"We will go through the interview and hiring process," she said. "We're going to be hiring for both those positions.... It is our hope to have someone hired for at least the last 30 days for both positions."
The board's goal is to have Caron and Clausen work with their successors to show them the "ins and outs," said past chamber President Christy Hernandez.
"That makes a huge difference in hiring our new folks, to have the former ones that are leaving show them all of what they know and share all their knowledge of what they have done immediately, which has been a lot," Hernandez said. "We're very happy with both of them and with all they have accomplished over the past two years."
Mitchell noted that Crescent City's annual Independence Day celebration is the chamber's largest event of the year.
Caron took on the role of interim executive director in November 2017 when then-Executive Director Jeff Parmer left due to health reasons. She picked up the reins full time in March 2018.
Caron said she is leaving the chamber to start a new business called the Gasquet Adventure Lodge. She plans to offer visitors a riverside campsite with their own swimming hole, a place for kayaking and fishing while providing smoothies with locally-sourced fruit and all-inclusive food packages.
Caron's new business will also have a yoga and massage studio. She said she'll also introduce visitors to stand-up paddle board yoga classes.
"It would look something like doing yoga in a yoga studio to warm up and getting on your stand-up paddle board and going from the adventure lodge down to a take-out point further along the Smith," Caron said. "And in this still area doing more yoga practice while you're on the Smith River."
Caron, who has been a kayaker for about 30 years, said it's always been her dream to live in Gasquet. Her daughter attends Mountain School, taking advantage of the environmental engineering curriculum it offers, and, she said, she started to think about visitors' needs.
"Once they get here they want to do stuff," Caron said, adding that she just saw the first proof of her business's logo. "I look at Del Norte County as the next outdoor recreation destination. People are coming here, they're seeking that next outdoor adventure, and I'm just so thrilled to be able to give locals and visitors that opportunity."
Rebranding Del Norte as a major outdoor recreation destination has been one of the focal points of Caron's tenure with the Chamber of Commerce. Working with Bend, Oregon-based Vertigo Marketing to provide tourism promotion through the area, Caron and the Del Norte Visitors Bureau unveiled its new brand at the 2019 Economic Summit in March.
Caron has also worked on revamping the chamber's Discover Del Norte magazine.
"It was something that really needed some updating," she said. "Every year we have been able to work on it and improve it and provide an incredible publication for not only our locals, but to showcase what Del Norte County has to offer our visitors as well."
Another accomplishment Caron says she's proud of is partnering with local businesses to offer their products as souvenirs in the chamber's visitors center. This enables the chamber to avoid competing with local businesses, she said, while showcasing "the best of our local products and be able to refer our chamber members that have other types of souvenirs."
"The next step for the chamber and visitors bureau is really exciting," Caron said. "The person who steps into this role will be able to have an incredible new website for the visitors bureau and the chamber of commerce and an updated, more current, more connected chamber of commerce and visitors bureau."
According to Mitchell, another accomplishment the chamber has realized with Caron at the helm has been a greater connection with similar organizations in neighboring counties. This includes sitting on the board of the Humboldt-Del Norte Film Commission. Film commission representatives have said that Caron is one of the most effective executive directors Crescent City has had, according to Mitchell.
The film commission has indicated they want Caron to continue on their board even after she resigns as chamber executive director, Mitchell said.
Mitchell also praised Caron's work with community outreach — saying that she's changed the face of the chamber — as well as her public speaking and consistent attendance at chamber mixers.
"Sarah has set the bar high for the next executive director that comes along," Mitchell said. "She has completely framed out the job description for the executive director and I believe that when the person comes in for the next role, the next person to step into this role is going to have a much easier transition than Sarah had herself because of the changes she has made."
Reach Jessica Cejnar at email@example.com .