My love affair with Madison began in 1994 when I was driving across the causeway on a beautiful fall morning before my interview for VP of Sales with the Greater Madison CVB. The lake was glistening, the leaves were changing and the Capitol dome loomed over the city – and that signature view didn’t have what it has today – Monona Terrace.
When I interviewed for this job, I didn’t “need” this job. I was gainfully employed and loving my life in Kansas City. I was a leader at the CVB there and not keen on moving – despite the fact that this job would move me and my toddler daughter, Jenna, closer to my hometown of Libertyville, Illinois and my parents and sister – whom I hadn’t lived near in years. I was wrestling with my then-fiancé and now husband, Dean, to get him to move to KC. As luck would have it for Jenna and I, I was offered this position and our new life in greater Madison began.
In 1994, I would have never dreamt to work at the same organization for 25+ years. I love change and moved several times after high school and relished every move. The move here proved to be magical and allowed me to spend time with my sister, whom I lost a year after moving here and my parents for several years before their passing.
What has kept me at this organization are the people – and the evolution of the community. During my time here, I have seen so many positive changes as it relates to visitors and the personality of the community. In 1996 when Madison was named “Best Place to Live” by Money magazine, our downtown had several empty storefronts, Monona Terrace wasn’t open, the Kohl Center and Overture didn’t exist and yet, it was deemed a wonderful place to live. “Selling Madison” has always been easy. Wherever I or our team go, people always have a positive experience to share about Madison or know someone who has raved about our community. And, while the “Best Place to Live” moniker is and should be disputed, with the spirit of this community, great leadership, its natural assets and implementing the changes people know need to be made going forward, Madison will be a model city and a place for ALL.
After two-plus decades in this position, I am hopeful that one of the legacies I leave is a community that understands and values visitors and the visitor economy more than when I began. Visitors are truly the lifeblood of many communities and when visitors begin to return to greater Madison, our region - and the businesses and workers we all rely on for much of our enjoyment and pride will begin to revive and recover.
I am now 67 years old and ready to join my husband in retirement and relish my newest role as a grandmother to Florence “Florie” Virginia. I didn’t expect this latest opportunity to come about since Jenna was married only 14 months ago, but I’m delighted she and her wonderful husband, Chase, didn’t wait longer to start their family. While I’m healthy and energetic, I am ready to embrace being a grandma and enjoying another chapter in a life that has been graced by wonderful people, opportunities and good health.
I know this may not seem like an ideal time for me to depart the organization, but honestly, I think it could prove to be an ideal time. As our community and industry strives to recover, there is an amazingly talented group of professionals at Destination Madison and we have a board and industry and community partners that most organizations like ours would covet. Together with an industry that is eager, hungry and creative, with new leadership, I know this destination will emerge as a leader and sought after place to hold meetings, sports events and spend leisure time.
There are two people who I must thank for their support, patience and understanding for the lack of family dinners, weekend and night work commitments and middle of the night interruptions as part of this great gig - Dean, my hard-working and encouraging husband and Jenna, my constant cheerleader and willing, volunteer sidekick. You two are part of the reason I have been able to pursue my passion of serving our community and the hospitality industry.
I have a few months left and look forward to helping continue recovery for our industry, prepare for my successor and, if I’m lucky, see some of you in person to say thank you for your support and engagement in our work.
– Deb Archer