After a year as executive director of the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, Jim Lavrakas has announced his resignation, effective Oct. 15.
“When I accepted the role … I did so with a sunset clause, knowing that I would one day want to return to my ‘retirement’ role of being a fishing guide, photographer and bon vivant,” Lavrakas said in a statement provided to the chamber’s membership.
Upon receiving Lavrakas’ resignation, Mike Barth, president of the chamber’s board of directors, said, “The Board of Directors is thankful to Jim for his time as the executive director and we wish him well in his transition back to ‘retirement.’”
The board is accepting applications for the executive director position and planned to form a hiring committee at the monthly board meeting today.
“Interested individuals can submit their resume to the chamber in person or by mail to email@example.com,” said Barth.
Raised in Massachusetts, Lavrakas moved to Alaska in 1974 and to Homer in 2010 after retiring as a photojournalist for the Anchorage Daily News.
He served on the chamber’s board of directors for three years and was named executive director following the resignation of Monte Davis.
“I took the job to see what I could do to market the city better, to use the skills I had for promotion and branding, looking at what the message was we got out there and being consistent with it, and also the graphics part of it. The ‘look’ of how we want to present the town and the mediums we used to do that,” Lavrakas told the Homer News.
During his tenure, Lavrakas expanded the chamber’s relationship with GCI beyond the company’s sponsorship of a $50,000 tagged fish in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby and a portion of the insurance covering that $50,000.
“There was talk on their end of not doing it anymore because they didn’t see the value of the recognition they got down here,” said Lavrakas.
“I suggested they not do less, but do more. We would pitch in on more of the insurance and they’d give us $50,000 worth of television advertising.”
As a result, GCI has advertised chamber-sponsored events, including the Winter King Tournament, Shorebird Festival, Jackpot Halibut Derby and Taste of Homer, on Channel 11 and GCI’s 56 cable networks for what Lavrakas estimated as double the agreed upon amount.
“I don’t know of any other chamber on the peninsula that has that kind of TV media outreach,” he said.
Lavrakas worked with the city of Homer to formalize an economic development and tourism marketing agreement between the two entities, funded by a $51,000 appropriation in the city’s fiscal year 2014 operating budget.
“It’s a pretty extensive marketing agreement that spelled out what the chamber would do and what the city would expect from us in terms of reporting,” said Lavrakas. “The chamber operates by providing services to their members and customers. The city is a customer and we provide the service. In exchange we get the fee that’s negotiated during the budgeting process.”
During the summer, paving of the chamber and visitor center’s parking lot was done by Gregoire Construction, paid with a $60,000 legislative grant. The groundwork for obtaining the grant had been laid by Davis and Lavrakas said, “I didn’t waste time spending it.”
Raised in Massachusetts, where “everyone has a lawn,” Lavrakas said he channeled his eagerness to landscape into landscaping at the chamber.
“We live in a condo here and there’s no lawn. But the chamber has a lawn and I’m very proud of the way it looks these days. If they’ll have me, I’ll continue to do the landscaping at the chamber,” he said, laughing.
The longer Lavrakas was with the chamber, the longer the to-do list grew “and the more that I took on myself, it just became too much,” he said.
“This was never going to be a career, being the chamber director. It was more like public service to me.”
Regarding future plans, Lavrakas said he and his wife Ruth, who works as a nurse at South Peninsula Hospital Long Term Care, have no plans to leave Homer.
“I’m just thinking of the things I’ve done well and enjoy and that’s photography and fishing,” said Lavrakas, who, prior to becoming the chamber’s executive director, operated Skookum Charters, a sport fishing guide business.
“And then there’s always projects that come down the pike that I take an interest in and will certainly continue to volunteer in town for causes that I believe in.”
The “bon vivant” lifestyle Lavrakas mentioned in his resignation was how he heard mountaineer Vern Tejas describe his life following a successful climb of Mount McKinley.
“It always just rang true that if you love life, put yourself out there, did your best to enjoy it and enjoy it with the people around you, that’s what life is about,” Lavrakas said.
The chamber also is accepting applications for the membership relations coordinator position. Resumes can be submitted in person or email to membership@Homeralaska.org.
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