Benitez chosen for new state outdoor recreation office
EAGLE — Eagle Town Board member Luis Benitez has been tapped by Gov. John Hickenlooper to serve as the state’s first director for the newly created Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office.
It’s a prestigious honor for the Eagle resident, but it also means Eagle will be filling a third vacancy in the space of a year.
Benitez was elected to the town board in the spring of 2014.
“Obviously there are parts of this (his state appointment) that are bittersweet given all the work we are doing here in Eagle,” Benitez said.
At the same time, he was intrigued with the idea of creating a new state office to oversee the types of outdoor recreation options he has championed in the community.
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“I see the community vision in the state of Colorado vision,” Benitez said. “I really see myself being able to be a voice for Eagle at the state level.”
Hickenlooper’s office made the announcement Monday regarding Benitez’s appointment and noted the position would be housed in the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
“Luis Benitez is the epitome of an outdoor recreation industry professional: a world-class mountaineer and guide, educator, leader and community advocate. We couldn’t have found a better-suited person to represent our state’s outdoor industry,” Hickenlooper said. “Luis has the knowledge and experience with Colorado’s outdoor recreation industry to become a successful convener and collaborator with all industry participants throughout the state. His passion for the outdoors is contagious, and he combines this with a business savvy that will ensure we continue to elevate Colorado’s business brand and the continued prominence of our outdoor recreation industry.”
The governor’s announcement said the Outdoor Recreation Industry Office is being established in recognition of the impact and importance of the industry to the future prosperity and health of Colorado.
“It will provide a central point of contact, advocacy, resources and support at the state level for the diverse constituents, businesses, communities and groups that rely on the continued health of the Outdoor Recreation Industry. The industry provides significant employment opportunities and is a critical component of the economic base in many rural and mountain communities,” stated the announcement.
According to the Outdoor Industry Association located in Boulder, the industry contributes $4.2 billion in wages and salaries in Colorado. Additionally, outdoor recreation generated $13.2 billion in annual consumer spending and $994 million in local and state taxes.
Key focal point
As Colorado’s first-ever outdoor recreation industry director, Benitez will be the state’s key focal point for the industry, promoting it throughout the world and supporting the growth of Colorado businesses that provide services and products in the outdoor recreation industry. He will also collaborate with key leaders throughout Colorado to advance the industry.
“I am incredibly excited to have the opportunity to connect who I am personally with what I get to do professionally,” Benitez said. “Colorado is in a strong position to lead the outdoor recreation industry on many levels, and this office will be the start of creating not only the collective voice for the outdoor community in our state, but also starting to craft the collaborative vision for the future of the outdoor recreation industry in Colorado”.
In making the appointment, Hickenlooper cited Benitez as one of the more experienced, respected and busiest professional guides and leadership development consultants in the world. He has summited the top of the famed Seven Summits 32 times, including being a six-time summiteer of Mt. Everest while serving as the director of operations for Adventure Consultants, a New Zealand-based international guiding company. Benitez’s first summit of Everest was to climb with blind athlete Erik Weihenmayer on his historic 2001 Everest summit.
Benitez also manages and leads critical thinking/situational leadership seminars in Chile for the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. This has led to the creation of an innovative consulting group, Endeavor Consulting, which focuses on experiential leadership development at the executive level.
Benitez previously worked with Vail Resorts, Inc., where he led talent management for Eagle County in Colorado.
Prior to Vail Resorts, he served as the director of the Rocky Mountain Region for Outward Bound Professional for the Colorado Outward Bound School.
Benitez is in Ecuador this week, participating in a service trip, but when he returns to Eagle he plans to work out a transition plan for his departure from the Eagle Town Board.
“I will stay stable for the next couple of months, until we work it out,” he said. “The state is being really supportive of this transition time.”
Last night, the Eagle Town Board launched discussions about the upcoming vacancy.
Benitez’s new job begins July 1, but he won’t be relocating to Denver immediately. “Part of the job is traveling around the state and looking at what towns are doing regarding outdoor recreation. There is a lot of great stuff happening,” he said.
Eagle is one of the places were great stuff is happening, according to Benitez. That’s what makes it so difficult to leave the community.
“Kate and I moved to Eagle with no intention of moving anywhere,” he said. “But I understand the need for a collective voice in the state for outdoor recreation opportunities.”