March 5, 2021

img_0901The Red Rock News recently noted the wave of change happening in many Sedona institutions. Longtime leaders are moving on and new directors are moving in. I am one of those new-in-town leaders, having begun as President/CEO of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau in February. Today, I want to show my deep appreciation for some of the champions who helped set the stage for Sedona’s bright future.

Sedona City Manager Justin Clifton is leaving Sedona to be the CM of Palm Springs, California. Justin was a tremendous force for professionalism and vision in his six years at the City. He supported the Global Sustainable Tourism Council ‘Sedona Destination Assessment’ in 2016, which led directly to the Sedona Sustainable Tourism Plan, a sea change in the way we manage tourism.  Justin and the City Council never wavered in supporting the 18-month process, culminating in the Council’s unanimous approval of the Plan in 2019. During the pandemic, Justin has been as open-minded, unflappable and collaborative as ever, working with us to aid local businesses, protect residents and educate visitors.

It is exciting to welcome incoming City Manager Karen Osburn, promoted by Council from her position as Assistant City Manager. Her skill in community and economic development has earned the confidence of the business and tourism services, preparing the ground for many fruitful future collaborations.

In February, City Councilor Bill Chisholm departed to reunite with family members in Colorado. Bill served on our Sedona Tourism Economic Revitalization Task Force and I worked with him briefly during the initial FY22 council/chamber tourism planning meeting last month. He was incisive, a master of both the details and the broader vision of every topic he addressed. I will miss his insistence that we all up our game. Determining his replacement is critical; I am sure Mayor Moriarty and the Council will choose wisely.

Jill McCutchen has stepped down as Executive Director of Sedona Recycles, though I am delighted she will continue as a board member. Since beginning in the late 80s as “a group for women who wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” as Jill says (a group that included future Mayor Sandy Moriarty), Sedona Recycles has been a big part of Sedona’s amazing tapestry. Jill and SR were vital in developing the Sustainable Tourism Plan and are at the forefront of implementing it. She recently partnered with us to launch a popular online quiz and useful one-page recycle sheet suitable for posting at home. (You will find both at

Current Board member Trevor Sparks has stepped up as the new Exec Director. Trevor and I will be working together on numerous sustainability initiatives.

Julie Richard is the new Director at the Sedona Arts Center, bringing an awesome educational and experiential background with her from Maine. Sedonans know the importance of the arts in our quality of life, visitor economy, visitor experience and even our sustainability efforts, as artistic sensibilities tend to be responsive in our messages. The Sedona Chamber has always been a strong advocate for the arts, supporting public installations, our artists and galleries, and sponsoring events as far back as the 2005 Javelinas on Parade. I look forward to collaborating with Julie  – and I can’t wait for the 2021 Plein Air Festival in October and a revival of 2020’s Year of the Woman theme.

We need our parks on board as leaders of our growth as a family friendly outdoor paradise with an emphasis on arts and entertainment. The recent departure of Parks and Rec Manager Steve Richardson leaves a critical hole in our parks ecosystem just as the City is processing resident input on the redesign choices for Posse Grounds Park. As Steve pointed out in December, the Park is due for an extensive update. We have a fantastic opportunity to create a new and exciting gathering spot, entertainment venue and green space that can be an Arizona landmark.

Though leadership change can be disruptive, it always marks a new beginning. With deep thanks and gratitude for the many who have brought Sedona this far, I am truly excited to be with you as we continue our journey toward balance and sustainability – together.

  –Candace Carr Strauss,