The Mammoth Lakes Tourism Board appointed John Mendel to fill the retail board seat vacated by Matt Hammer at its regular meeting Wednesday.
Mendel will be seated (or Zoomed) at the board’s next meeting on April 7.
What was striking about the discussion and appointment of the board seat was that there were three candidates who submitted applications, each of whom one could arguably say is more qualified than the majority, if not all who currently sit on the board.
Board member Rhonda Duggan acknowledged as much. “Some of us might not be here today if we had been up against these candidates.”
There was Mendel, who managed multi-billion dollar national marketing budgets while he was an Executive Vice-President at Honda North America.
Then there was Larry Crabb, who spent 44 years in the apparel industry, starting at Levi Strauss and later developing some of the first programs for the NFL, NBA and Disney to produce apparel in China.
And then there was Silver Chesak, owner of Footloose Sports, who’s spent his career in the ski industry, as a professional skier and then sales rep for several companies before taking the ownership reins at Footloose in 2017.
It was suggested at the meeting that the board should ultimately take two out of three of these gentlemen, as an at-large seat (Duggan, now a County Supervisor, is stepping down) will become available in June.
There were two trains of thought as to how to prioritize
One train of thought was simple: take the best and most knowledgeable. Which appeared to be Mr. Mendel. Jeremy Goico, in speaking for the interview committee, which consisted of himself, Michael Ledesma and Pat Foster, said Mr. Mendel was the most prepared candidate and the most knowledgeable about the organization. And he has 45 years of high-level marketing and sales experience.
Mr. Crabb, while also a “very high-level individual” who now owns two retail businesses in the Village at Mammoth, has a career background that’s more “supply chain” than marketing.
The other train of thought, espoused by Mr. Ledesma, was that this is a “retail” seat and priority should be given to more of a true local retailer.
Mr. Mendel’s Devil’s Creek Distillery is housed in the Industrial Park and includes a small tasting room.
John Morris agreed, saying he leaned toward Mr. Chesak based upon his local knowledge of the retail sector. And history. Mr. Chesak took his first job at Footloose in the 20th century.
Somewhat of a head-scratcher moment occurred when Mr. Goico asked Mr. Urdi for his input on the matter. Weird simply because Mr. Urdi would be the employee of whomever was selected.
No offense to Mr. Mendel, said Urdi, but he said he would like to see a true retailer on the board, echoing the sentiments of Messrs. Morris and Ledesma. Urdi, Morris and Ledesma have all been with MLT since the organization’s inception. In a surprising twist, however, the rest of the board voiced universal support for Mendel. As Jess Karell said of Mendel, “He built his business [Devil’s Creek Distillery] from scratch here.”
Foster added, “This is too good of an opportunity to pass on John Mendel.”
One item of note: Foster said Mendel was the only candidate who did not express diehard support for the organization. He declared himself neutral in his interview and “pointed out things we can improve on,” said Foster.
Mr. Goico made the motion to appoint Mendel, who received unanimous approval.
Two MLT board seats are up in June. One is the at-large seat previously mentioned. The other is John Morris’s seat, which is determined by the Mammoth Lakes Lodging Association. As Mr.
Morris is President of the Lodging Association, it is a fair assumption he will continue as the lodging designee.