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Brookfield, Wisconsin  Convention and Visitors Bureau May Dissolve;
Executive Director and Sales Manager Resign
By Lisa Sink, Milwaukee Journal SentinelMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Sep. 9, 2008 --The executive director and sales manager of the Brookfield Convention and Visitors Bureau have resigned, prompting some officials to predict the tourism agency that has served the City and Town of Brookfield for 19 years would dissolve.

Bureau Executive Director Rod Raschka resigned Monday, just days after the city gave the bureau one last shot to persuade aldermen to stay with the agency rather than seek bidders for the city's tourism services.

Tracy Kaschak, the bureau's sales manager, resigned Thursday to take a job as on-site meeting planner for M&I University, the bank's new employee training center in Brookfield.

The convention bureau has two other employees, both part-time administrative staffers who would lose their jobs if the bureau dissolved.

The bureau has an annual budget of about $550,000 in room tax revenue. That's only a fraction of the more than $3.1 million in room tax revenue collected annually by the 13 hotels in the city and town, most of which goes to the two municipalities' general funds.

Raschka, who was hired as the bureau's director in June 2007, said Monday he felt compelled to seek another job given the uncertainty of the agency's future.

He has accepted a job as director of sales for the corporate office of a hotel he would not identify. His last day with the bureau is Sept. 19.

"The past few months have been a time of turmoil and the future of the bureau, as well as my position have become uncertain," Raschka wrote to hoteliers and bureau board members. "In light of these events, I felt it imperative to consider my options."

In an interview, he praised the local hotel industry, the bureau board and the Town of Brookfield for their support.

"I think it would serve the community best if the city and town would work together," Raschka said. "But I don't know if that's something that's going to be obtainable any longer with the city's move to pull out."

The resignations come just days after the city's Finance Committee slowed efforts by Mayor Jeff Speaker and city department heads to contract for tourism services and seek bids from the Convention and Visitors Bureau, local chamber of commerce and ad agencies.

The mayor and staff said the convention bureau for many years has not been as effective as it could be and has not given desired deference to city ideas on how to spend funds.

They said the bureau could win the contract, but it would no longer have control over how funds are spent. Rather than have the bureau's autonomous board of directors with hotel, business and local government representatives make those decisions, city elected and appointed officials would control funds.

If the city didn't award the contract to the bureau, it would have to decide whether to continue serving only the town or dissolve.

Board President Diane Heuvelmans, general manager for the Country Inn and Suites, said she believes the bureau is more likely to dissolve than to hire a new executive director and seek a city contract.

"I just don't see a point for us to go on anymore," she said. "It's just not worth the battle."

She urged city officials to reconsider their options and join efforts with the town and other Waukesha County communities to promote tourism as a region. She, however, joined Raschka in recommending against joining the City of Milwaukee's tourism efforts.

Speaker said he was disappointed that the bureau appeared unlikely to seek a city contract and he wanted to see how the bureau reacted to the resignations before addressing the city's next steps.


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