Beaver Creek’s O’Rourke looks forward to Tahoe move
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado – Tony O’Rourke said he wasn’t looking for a new job when a headhunter contacted him a few months ago about an opening with the city of South Lake Tahoe, Calif.”I’d always been interested in the Tahoe area,” he said. “There’s only a handful of places I would consider moving to, and that was one of them.”O’Rourke, who is Beaver Creek Resort Company’s longtime executive director, said Tahoe’s natural beauty intrigued him.”It’s spellbinding, as far as the lake and surrounding mountains, and quality of life, I’ve always liked it,” he said.While the area offered a similar quality of life to Beaver Creek, the job promised new, interesting challenges. As O’Rourke, 55, plans to start as city manager of South Lake Tahoe on Aug. 9, he’ll be heading to a state reeling from a budget crisis. The city faces financial troubles stemming from the recession and the threat of wildfires. O’Rourke will be charged with creating a new, recession-era business model for South Lake Tahoe.”It’s fiscally in better shape than most communities in California, but it still has to reposition itself for the long run,” he said.O’Rourke declined to disclose the terms of his contract, saying the details will not become public until South Lake Tahoe’s Town Council meets July 13.As O’Rourke looks forward to his new job, he will leave behind a place he enjoyed. O’Rourke has served as executive director of Beaver Creek for 14 years. He has lived in his Edwards Singletree home, which he recently put up for sale, almost as long. O’Rourke will be moving to South Lake Tahoe with his wife, Susie O’Rourke and 16-year-old son, Jimmy O’Rourke. He’s looking for a house to lease for a year in South Lake Tahoe, while he searches for the right house to buy.”You can’t beat the quality of life there, especially after being spoiled here for 14 years,” he said.Since O’Rourke took the helm of Beaver Creek in 1996, he has ushered in plenty of changes. The resort company created a host of new events, such as the Bon Appetit Culinary Festival, and Blues, Brews & BBQ.”There were very few events when I got here,” he said. “I think there was a chili cookoff and a local’s culinary event, but there wasn’t much.”During O’Rourke’s tenure, he also helped a team of people get The Vilar Performing Arts Center up and running.”It’s clearly been a cultural jewel for Beaver Creek,” he said.As O’Rourke bids farewell to Beaver Creek, he will be heading to a town with some similarities. Like Beaver Creek, South Lake Tahoe a ski town. Heavenly, a Vail Resorts ski area, even stands within the city limits. O’Rourke said he plans to continue to the partnership with Vail Resorts.One major difference: O’Rourke is entering the public sector. But that’s a place where he’s comfortable. He spent 20 years with cities in California, Texas and Florida working in management positions.”I’m going full circle,” he said. “I’m going back to my first passion, which was government.”O’Rourke says he has no regrets about his time in Beaver Creek.”It’s been a great ride,” he said. “I never thought it would last 14 years. I think that speaks to how great it was, and how much we loved being here. You reach a point where you want some additional challenges, and that’s what South Lake Tahoe represents to me.”Beaver Creek Resort Co. board members have met to talk about a strategy for replacing O’Rourke, board president John Garnsey said. They plan to start a local search for candidates within the next few weeks, he said.”The first step will be looking locally to see if there are any prospects that make sense for the resort company and have the potential to do that position,” Garnsey said. “We’ll see where that goes. If we don’t have any luck locally, we’ll go on a national search.”He expects to fill the position within the next two to three months. He declined to make the salary for the position public at this time.”We’re looking for someone who has experience in managing municipal operations,” he said. “Someone who has some marketing and event expertise would be nice as well.”Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.