Ag Alliance names its first executive director

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— After more than a year in existence, the Community Agricultural Alliance is taking its first step out of infancy by hiring an executive director.

Ellen Stein was officially named to the position on Tuesday and will take on the responsibilities of forging a better connection between agricultural-based businesses and tourist-based businesses.

"I'm excited to work and support the understanding between these two communities," Stein said.

She believes there are common ties between the two industries and wants to find ways that both can benefit through those ties.

Much of the character and economic value of Steamboat comes from the agricultural community, Stein said.

"What I think the Ag Alliance would like to do is make a more explicit connection between the ag community and visitors (to Steamboat)," she said.

Stein expects it to be difficult to merge the cultures of agriculture and tourism. But she feels that, with education of non-agricultural residents and the proper tools to allow agriculture to compete in a tourist market, it can be done.

Stein comes to the Ag Alliance from the Western Governors Association in Denver, where she has been a consultant since 1998.

In that position, she worked on programs that protected open and agricultural lands, supported proper land stewardship practices and focused on community preservation.

Stein was one of 20 applicants for the local job. The Ag Alliance was looking for an applicant who had the ability to organize, plan and move the board forward.

"We wanted someone who could continue the work we started," Ag Alliance co-chairwoman Medora Fralick said.

Of the 20 who applied, six people were interviewed.

"It was an agonizing choice," Fralick said.

She was surprised by the number of applicants but said it confirmed her belief that the Ag Alliance is a novel organization with the potential to be an example for similar groups in rural areas.

"The fact we had 20 applicants says something on what we've done so far," she said.

Stein was chosen for her work with the Governors' Association and for her interpersonal skills.

"She's going to be just amazing," Fralick said.

Stein, who is originally from Telluride, applied for the position because she felt the Ag Alliance has a compelling mission.

"It's a model for other communities in the West," she said.

Her first job as executive director is representing the Ag Alliance at the Economic Summit next week.

After that, her first official day of work is July 1.

The Ag Alliance was donated office space by the Orton Family Foundation at Colorado Mountain College and a computer by the city of Steamboat Springs.

Once Stein is settled, one of her first tasks will be to organize a series of lectures on land management aimed at new ranch owners.

She also has the task of creating a ranch manager certification program.

"I have a ton to learn," Stein said. "But I have a lot of experience to offer."

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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