Visit Annapolis & Anne Arundel County is poised to get a new CEO and president this spring when Kristen Pironis, currently Naval Academy Alumni Association and Foundation executive, takes over.
Board chair Gary Jobson said Pironis’ experience with strategic planning, operations and governance experience will help the taxpayer-funded organization revitalize the tourism sector following the COVID-19 pandemic. She will assume the role on April 19.
As she makes the change, Pironis said in a statement released by VIsit Annapolis, that she would begin meeting with lawmakers and other government officials.
“I want to learn how to balance their needs, their wants, their expectations,” she said. “Their feedback will help to inform VAAAC’s direction moving forward. We’re going to need a near-term, post-COVID-19 plan that looks a year to 18 months out. Concurrent with that, we’ll need to develop a long-term strategic plan that addresses the next five years.”
The change in leadership comes after a tumultuous year for the organization.
Former CEO and President Connie Del Signore was fired last summer after being placed on unpaid administrative leave in April. Leaders of theagency brought in an outside organization to study the internal governance, and found no financial problems, spokesperson Gary Jobson said.
In October, interim CEO and President Dani Bottcher resigned after being asked to leave following a break-in at the office and a complaint that she created an unsafe working environment.
Visit Annapolis & Anne Arundel County is a nonprofit, membership-based organization that promotes Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay travelers through marketing and sales campaigns. The organization collects 17% of city and county hotel taxes each year, making $3,470,144 — 93% of its revenue — from hotel taxes in 2019. Revenue is expected to decline for the coming fiscal year because of travel restrictions during the pandemic.
At one point, the organization had to appear before the County Council during budget proceedings to discuss its use of taxpayer’s dollars. A bill before the General Assembly would re-establish oversight and accountability measures, including an annual report of taxpayer dollar use by the organization to local authorities. If the organization failed to comply, the county would be able to withhold funds.
Pironis was selected from a pool of 90 candidates who applied for the position during a three-month nationwide search, according to a release from Visit Annapolis.
Pironis will leave her a job as executive vice president of marketing and communications at the foundation, where she has been since 2004, according to her LinkedIn page. She previously worked in communications at the University of Maryland performing arts center and the Maryland Science Center.
She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in nonprofit and association management from the University of Maryland Global College.
For the past seven years, Pironis has served on the boards of Citizens for Maryland Libraries and the Queen Anne’s County Library Board of Trustees and on the legislative panel for the Maryland Library Association.
“I look forward to exploring collaborative possibilities with businesses and organizations throughout Anne Arundel County as well as with fellow Maryland destination marketing organizations,” she said.