Anaheim, CA – Jay Burress today was named president & CEO of the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau and will begin his new position on February 11. He succeeds Charles Ahlers, who retires at the end of 2012 after 20 years as president & CEO.
The announcement comes a week after a gala retirement party in Ahlers’ honor attended by 300+ industry professionals, who worked with Ahlers in Anaheim and in industry organizations dating back to the 1970s. He was lauded and roasted by his former bosses, board members, and colleagues, such as Stephen Hacker, former president & CEO of the International Association of Exhibition and Events (IAEE). Others in attendance included Joe Lamond and Kevin Johnstone of the National Association of Music Merchants; Michael Wilson, former president of the Greater Cincinnati Convention & Visitors Bureau; Julie Smith, Carl Godlewski and Pam Pietrok of Global Experience Specialists (GES); Mark Roysner, Esq.; Darlene Gudea and Sandi Cain, Trade Show Executive; and hundreds of others to bid farewell.
Burress comes to Anaheim from Experience Arlington (Convention & Visitors’ Bureau), where he was president and CEO for the past four years. Before that, he held various positions on both the convention and tourism sides of the Dallas CVB.
His credentials mirror those of Ahlers in several ways: both have been active in the Professional Convention Management Association, the American Society of Association Executives and other local and regional industry organizations. In addition, Ahlers was President & CEO in Anaheim when it hosted Major League Baseball’s World Series, won by the (then) Anaheim Angels in 2002 and when the city hosted International POWWOW in 2007. During Burress’ tenure in Arlington, the city hosted the NBA All-Star Game, Super Bowl XLV and two World Series events when the Texas Rangers were the American League representatives in 2010 and 2011.
Ahlers’ retirement comes on the eve of the opening of the Anaheim Convention Center’s 100,000 square foot outdoor plaza expansion. He also was at the helm in Anaheim during the last expansion of the Anaheim Convention Center that made it the largest exhibition center in Southern California.
Ahlers joined the Anaheim Bureau during its early years in the 1970s — a decade after it was launched. The bureau’s first President, Bill Snyder, told attendees at Ahlers’ retirement party, that in those days, he spent much of his time explaining that Anaheim wasn’t a full day’s drive from Los Angeles.
After seven years in Anaheim, Ahlers left to become convention director for the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau, then director of sales for the Phoenix & Valley of the Sun Convention & Visitors Bureau, and finally executive director of the Portland, Oregon Visitors Association before returning to Anaheim in 1992.
In an earlier interview with Trade Show Executive, Ahlers said his biggest accomplishment was achieving funding for the CVB through tourism improvement district taxes approved by the cities of Anaheim and Garden Grove.
Now, he welcomes his successor. “We’re looking forward to welcoming (Burress) to Anaheim and Orange County and showing him our brand of Southern California hospitality,” Ahlers said. I’m sure we will be able to blend out knowledge and experience to continue tradition of success and keep Anaheim and Orange County in the forefront as leading meeting and leisure destination.”
And if his friends who roasted him at the retirement gala are to be believed, those who seek Ahlers out will still be able to find him at the gym, on the golf course, or enjoying a glass of wine.