Valhalla Tahoe looks to future with new executive director
April 24, 2018
There is a new face of Valhalla Tahoe, and her name is Sharon Romack.
The Illinois transplant became the executive director of the nonprofit, which oversees multiple estates on the Tallac Historic Site and hosts both weddings and community events, back in October 2017 — her daughter made the move to Tahoe's North Shore 14 years ago, and after multiple visits to the region Romack began looking for basin-based jobs herself.
"More and more I realized this is where I wanted to be, the lifestyle I wanted and the natural beauty I find very peaceful and comforting. It's something that's hard to get in a big city like Chicago," she said. "I began looking for positions here in the Lake Tahoe area and when this one became available last June I applied and the rest is history."
After two staff members retired, Valhalla Tahoe decided to bring back the executive director position — a role that had not been in place at the organization for a number of years, according to board president Stephanie Grigsby.
"Two folks were retiring. One had managed a lot of the sites and weddings, she was the on-the-ground person everybody related to as being the face of Valhalla to some extent. The other was the organizational, financial side," said Grigsby. "When thinking about those two retiring, it provided us the opportunity to rethink having an executive director come on board and having her on the financial piece as staff, and the day-to-day operational role, along with building sponsorships and thinking about other financial sources that sustain nonprofits."
Essentially, the entity's team had decided to combine two jobs into one that would focus on overseeing administration, programs, strategic plans and outreach. The ideal candidate for Valhalla's executive director would be well-versed in leading nonprofits, have a passion for the arts and an interest in growing the organization's presence in the community.
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"We were trying to find someone that can do everything — be a leader and jack-of-all-trades and master all of them," Grigsby said.
They found these characteristics exemplified in Romack, whose previous experience includes stints in nonprofit work, marketing and management — and she also possesses an interest in the arts.
"It provided me the background I need to work with the board of directors and the organization as a whole. In my roles as executive director, or even in volunteer roles [at nonprofits] I learned a lot about what makes organizations work and what can be done to make sure they work the best they can," Romack said.
She looks to implement what she's learned into Valhalla's plans for the future.
The organization has two components — property maintenance (which includes connecting the community with the sites' history) and the annual arts-focused festival — and Romack's vision covers both.
While the executive director's first goal is to establish a long-range, strategic plan for Valhalla (according to Romack, it is "essential to keep your eyes on the prize"), she's also working towards increasing non-ticket revenue.
"This includes sponsorships, grants, product sales — ways to sustain Valhalla without being totally dependent on rentals or ticket sales. If we have a few more areas we can count on for funds, I think we can expand and head toward what we hope to be three to five years down the road, which we don't have planned yet, but I know it's going to take money to get there," Romack said.
As far as what's happened since she began her position roughly six months ago, Romack noted that in addition to working on bylaws and other behind-the-scenes tasks there have been slight changes to Valhalla's venues.
"We have added some opportunities for concertgoers to enjoy different kinds of experiences during concerts, we're going to expand our holiday faire to include other activities besides the craft show, and we're sprucing up buildings, the theater and Grand Hall, so that people can see what a top-notch facility it is," she explained.
According to Grigsby, Romack is already making her mark on the nonprofit.
"She's done a great job in terms of refreshing the brand a little bit, making connections with existing volunteers and members, and she's been trying to get out in the community a little bit more, being present in events and groups," Grigsby said. "She's only been here a couple months, but she's been able to do some great things so far. As an organization we ramp up in the summer, so she and the board are getting ready for an incredibly busy [time] out there."
Valhalla Tahoe's summer season kicks off Friday, June 22, with the launch of the 39th annual Art, Music and Theatre Festival.
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