Candace Carr Strauss grew-up in a culturally diverse neighborhood and has a resulting fondness for travel and tourism. She is excited for her next adventure and thankful to know so many good people in Big Sky. PHOTO COURTESY CANDACE CARR STRAUSS

Chamber & Visit Big Sky CEO heads to Sedona

With a slew of accomplishments in the community, she embarks on a new adventure

Big Sky Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber) & Visit Big Sky (VBS) CEO Candace Carr Strauss will be departing her roles in Big Sky and heading to Sedona, Ariz. in February. She has been named President/CEO of the Sedona, Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau.

“It’s so bittersweet. I’m heartbroken to leave so many of the relationships that I’ve built over the last four years. The people make this place extra special,” she told LPL. “But a new adventure is always good.”

She noted that during her time in Big Sky it has been an honor and privilege to work with such dedicated community leaders.

Her accomplishments in the community are many and the Chamber and VBS answered the call when area businesses and people were in crisis from the pandemic.

During her tenure she assisted in the community pandemic response, spearheading a partnership between her organizations and the Big Sky Resort Area District under Big Sky Relief to assist small businesses. That effort generated a $2 million investment to support the community, including winter 2020/2021 free COVID-19 community surveillance testing “to help ensure Big Sky’s resiliency.” Nearly 60 small businesses received microgrants ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 from the Chamber and Visit Big Sky’s efforts during the pandemic. PPE has also been made available in the community, including 250,000 masks.

Big Sky has also made strides during the last few years toward the Mountain IDEAL certification – according to a press release “a highly prized designation from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council recognizing mountain destinations that practice rigorous destination management and environmental stewardship.” The VBS sustainability committee evolved into its own 501(c)(3), the Big Sky Sustainability Network Organization (SNO).

“She led the Chamber’s efforts to help secure a $10.3 million federal grant to improve MT 64, the area’s major arterial highway, augment public transit and boost pedestrian and wildlife safety. Strauss helped address the shortage of affordable workforce housing by forming the Big Sky Community Housing Trust, where she serves as Vice Chair, and created a leadership development program, Leadership Big Sky, which recently celebrated the graduation of its first class,” a press release said.

Further, she was appointed to the U.S. Travel Association’s Board of Directors in February 2018 and also chairs the COVID-19 Regional Tourism Recovery Coalition with stakeholders from Yellowstone and greater southwest Montana.

Big Sky Chamber & Visit Big Sky Board Chairmen Scott Johnson and Tim Drain expressed happiness for her and gratefulness for her hard work for the community.

“Candace has guided Big Sky’s continued evolution from a destination ski resort to a yearround, sustainable community,” Drain said. “We are saddened but also excited for her. Sedona is getting a community leader of the highest caliber.”

“Candace has provided Big Sky with vision and leadership,” said Johnson. “We will miss her passion and dedication.”

The Chamber & VBS are initiating a nationwide search for her successor.

Strauss’ advice to the next Chamber & VBS CEO: “We all have our own special gifts and some of us are better at different things and other areas. Bring those [talents] to the table authentically.”

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