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Incoming chamber CEO says growth presents opportunities, challenges



By Amanda Eggert EBS Senior Editor

BIG SKY – Candace Carr Strauss is crossing eight time zones to take the helm as CEO of the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce in June.

Strauss has spent nearly a decade of her adult life in Montana—she was the director of marketing and development for the Billings Symphony, and later served as the director of development at Bozeman’s Museum of the Rockies—but she’ll be leaving Copenhagen, Denmark, to serve as the voice of Big Sky’s business and tourism community.

Strauss moved to Copenhagen last August for her husband’s job at Maersk Oil. Strauss spent a month in Big Sky with her family last summer and two weeks here over Christmas. “We’ve always kept a foot here in Montana,” Strauss said. “My children consider this home.” Her husband will continue to be based in Copenhagen, but will spend two to three months a year in Montana.



Britt Ide has been serving as interim chamber CEO since September, when former CEO Kitty Clemens left the post to take a position as the executive director of the Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority. The chamber announced Strauss’ hire in March.

“I’m excited to come at a time of unprecedented growth,” said Strauss, adding that she’s been thinking at length about what smart growth looks like for Big Sky. “To be a part of that—it’s a very special time.”

Strauss, who will also lead Visit Big Sky in her new role, acknowledges that Big Sky’s growth also represents the greatest challenge before her. In reference to the assortment of boards, committees and nonprofits that perform various functions of a city government in this unincorporated community, Strauss said she aims to “be an active participant and at the same time be a student of the system.”

During Strauss’ tenure in what she calls “the experiential economy,” she’s been tracking a shift in how the tourism industry courts consumers, manages their expectations and experience, and interfaces with residents. She said that the sharing economy, and technology furthering peer-to-peer information gathering, have changed the role of a convention and visitor’s bureau.

Strauss said stewardship, rather than management, might be a better way to think about the role of a convention and visitors bureau when it comes to tourism. “It’s one thing to manage what’s being done in a destination to provide that great experience to a consumer, but it’s another to be thoughtful to the residents and the community [about] what kind of experience [we’re] putting out there and is it the best for us to preserve who we are?”

Strauss said her daughter Madison and son Hunter will enroll in Big Sky School District’s International Baccalaureate program, another selling point for their move. Madison, 14, and Hunter, 12, are currently enrolled in an IB program in Copenhagen.

Once she gets settled, Strauss said she’s looking forward to fly fishing, playing golf and logging some kilometers on Lone Mountain Ranch’s cross-country ski trails.

She said she’s also looking forward to showcasing Big Sky when the Montana Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Recreation comes here April 15-17, 2018.

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