RACVB names new president and CEO

Industry leader David Preece to begin July 31

The Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Board of Directors announced they have hired David Preece to be the Bureau’s next president and Chief Executive Officer after concluding a five-month national search. Preece begins July 31.

Preece’s career has included work in several key sectors of the travel and tourism industry. Most recently, he served as vice president of Travel Trade Marketing for Classic Vacations, the luxury travel division of Expedia, Inc. Prior experience includes serving as the president and CEO of the Travel Institute and vice president, North America for the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau.

“David comes to us with a broad spectrum of experience,” said Rena Cotsones, RACVB Board chairman. “The search committee was instantly impressed by his grasp of issues facing the visitor industry, the depth of his professional background and his ability to communicate a vision for the future of the visitor industry as a central pillar of community and economic development. RACVB has a reputation of excellence and innovation. David is an innovator and a marketing expert with the skills and passion to lead this organization and our industry to the next level.”

After accepting the position, Preece said: “Tourism is everybody’s business. It’s a major economic engine for the Rockford area with lots of growth potential, and I look forward to collaborating with the community as we set goals and plan strategies.” He is looking forward to moving back to the Midwest and being part of a community where he can make a difference.

Bob Rhea, RACVB immediate past board chairman and chairman of the search committee, added: “It is appropriate that David would join our team at a time we are looking at the possibility of adopting a community-wide brand. He has real branding expertise, having led the Hawaii VCB, Classic Vacations and The Travel Institute through very thorough and successful rebranding processes.”

Preece continued: “The Rockford area offers a tremendous range of visitor experiences, and it’s encouraging to see the momentum for new investment. I’m eager to get on board and work with the staff to leverage these products in new tourism marketing initiatives that will help build the Rockford destination brand.”

LaVonne Brown, who has served as interim CEO since the June 1 retirement of Wendy Perks Fisher, will resume her previous position as Chief Operating Officer.

RACVB’s board and staff will host a reception the week of July 31 to introduce Preece to industry partners, community leaders and citizens. Details will be announced soon.


Preece has a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications/advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a bachelor’s degree in communications with an advertising emphasis from Brigham Young University. Additionally, he attained the designation of Certified Travel Counselor from The Travel Institute.

Search process

A Board-appointed search committee has worked since February to find the Bureau’s next chief executive. SearchWide, a hospitality executive search firm, has assisted the committee in this task. During the process, RACVB Board members and SearchWide interviewed community and industry representatives about what skills and qualities they believed the next president and CEO should possess.

The search committee included the following members:

Bob Rhea, former RACVB Board chairman and chairman of the search committee;

Rena Cotsones, RACVB Board chairman and executive director, Community Relations, for Northern Illinois University;

Jim Ryan, RACVB Board member and city administrator for the City of Rockford;

Dan Jacobson, RACVB Board liaison from Loves Park and Community Development/Public Works director for the City of Loves Park;

Jan Herbert, RACVB Board liaison from Rockton and president of The Market Junction, Inc.;

Patti Thayer, RACVB Board member, Winnebago County Board member and Commercial and Industrial Sales Realtors for Whitehead, Inc.;

John Chadwick, RACVB Board member and vice president and general manager of WREX-TV

Scott Sullivan, RACVB Board member and partner with Williams & McCarthy and;

Bill Geist, president of Zeitgeist Consulting.

RACVB is a private, non-profit organization established in 1984 to promote and champion efforts to make the Rockford area an overnight visitor destination. The mission of RACVB is to achieve pre-eminent destination stature.

From the July 26-Aug. 1, 2006, issue

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