Editorial: With Change Comes Opportunity for Destination Door County

As Memorial Day approaches, 2021 is shaping up as one of the busiest summers Door County has seen in a long time. Lodging establishments are booked ahead of 2019 numbers, and summer reservations continue to roll in. This comes after an off-season that, for many, was more season than off

As we emerge from the pandemic, people are coming to visit our home in large numbers; businesses are scrambling to find employees; potential employees are struggling to find a place to live; locals are debating whether our community will lose its identity with so many visitors; and Destination Door County (DDC), the organization that is responsible for promoting our community, is in the process of finding new purpose and a new CEO.

Jack Moneypenny, the president/CEO of Destination Door County, resigned May 7 after serving since 2007. He cited Destination Door County’s organizational shift as the reason for his resignation. Moneypenny’s mission was to get people to Door County, to reinvigorate our tourism economy and to put “heads in beds.” That mission has been accomplished, but now our community finds itself overwhelmed. His departure allows us to head in a different direction for our home and our community.

In the fall of 2019, DDC’s board of directors recognized the focus of its organization needed to change. In response, the board voted unanimously to move away from serving as a destination-marketing organization to become a destination-management organization. The board members recognized that unless they changed their direction, our community’s integrity, environment, culture and heritage could become so overwhelmed with visitors that we could lose our identity.

They established a new mission that would “work to ensure all travelers feel welcome and preserve Door County’s way of life and natural resources.” Their long-term destination promise states:

We will promote travel to Door County in a way that aims to minimize the environmental and social impact while maximizing economic impact. We strive to foster a local sense of place to ensure quality of life for residents that creates a positive impact on the county.

Marketing is not a bad thing. It can help preserve and protect those things that we all love. In order for it to be effective, however, it has to be done in a way that respects all of what we are. It has to be inclusive.

The board of Destination Door County is putting together a search committee for a new CEO/president that is more aligned with its new mission. The board has stated that it is committed to meeting with neighbors, friends and stakeholders to get input from as many locals as possible. The board’s members have recognized that the community has high expectations of them, and they say they are willing to listen and change. They say they want to move in the right direction. These are important and necessary steps for the organization. Our job as a community is to hold the board accountable so that the right words result in the right action.

With Moneypenny’s departure, there is an opportunity to change how DDC conducts business and move toward a new way that works with our community and for our community. This is Destination Door County’s chance to step up and lead us forward – to show the county and our community that, as an organization, it understands the concerns of locals and the challenges that our community faces. It is an opportunity to put money behind initiatives that help to preserve and perpetuate all those things that make our home so special to all of us – to build local partnerships; to put resources toward programs that ensure that Door County’s environment, culture and heritage are preserved and advanced; to build bridges between visitors and locals; to participate and assist in finding solutions to our transportation, child care, housing and employment needs; and to create opportunities to collaborate. It is an opportunity for us as a community to be better and to be better together.

Change is upon us. If we listen, we can move forward together.