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Candace Carr Strauss departs from Big Sky Chamber, Visit Big Sky

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BIG SKY – Big Sky Chamber of Commerce and Visit Big Sky CEO Candace Carr Strauss has been named President and CEO of the Sedona, Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau and will resign from her Big Sky position effective Feb. 10, 2021. 

“It has been my honor to serve with so many dedicated professionals and caring human beings,” Strauss said in a letter to Big Sky Chamber and Visit Big Sky Board Chairmen Scott Johnson and Tim Drain. “I will carry with me fond memories of the special people and place that is Big Sky.”

“Candace has guided Big Sky’s continued evolution from a destination ski resort to a year-round, sustainable community,” Drain said. “We are saddened but also excited for her. Sedona is getting a community leader of the highest caliber.”

“Candace has provided Big Sky with vision and leadership,” said Johnson. “We will miss her passion and dedication.”

Since Strauss took the helm in early 2017, Big Sky has become Montana’s top producer of bed tax revenue. “Rising to first from fifth in bed tax collections during a global pandemic reflects Big Sky’s growth as a destination and indicates a bright future,” Strauss said.

Strauss led the Chamber and Visit Big Sky’s pandemic response, including spearheading a partnership between her organizations and the Big Sky Resort Area District under Big Sky Relief to assist small businesses. “The greater partnership has invested $2 million to support the community as a whole, and includes the winter 2020-21 Free COVID-19 Big Sky Community-wide Surveillance Testing Partnership, to help ensure Big Sky’s resiliency,” she said. 

The Chamber and Visit Big Sky also provided nearly 60 small business microgrants ranging from $2,500 to $5,000, have made Personal Protective Equipment, including 250,000 masks, available for free while embracing the “Montana Aware – Safety First. Adventure Second.” public health campaign. Strauss also chairs a COVID-19 Regional Tourism Recovery Coalition with stakeholders from Yellowstone and greater Southwest Montana.

Strauss notes that during her tenure, Big Sky took steps toward Mountain IDEAL certification, a highly prized designation from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council recognizing mountain destinations that practice rigorous destination management and environmental stewardship. The VBS sustainability committee evolved into its own 501(c)(3), the Big Sky Sustainability Network Organization

She led the Chamber’s efforts to help secure a $10.3 million federal grant to improve U.S. Route 64, the area’s major arterial highway, augment public transit and boost pedestrian and wildlife safety. Strauss helped address the shortage of affordable workforce housing by forming the Big Sky Community Housing Trust, where she serves as Vice Chair, and created a leadership development program, Leadership Big Sky, which recently celebrated the graduation of its first class.

Strauss was appointed to the U.S. Travel Association’s Board of Directors in February 2018, earning national recognition for Big Sky as a tourism industry leader and gateway community to Yellowstone National Park. She was recently appointed as Vice Chair of the Montana Association of Chamber Executives and to the Montana Infrastructure Coalition Board of Directors.

Johnson and Drain said the Chamber will conduct a national search to hire a new CEO.

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