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Valdez Star 

Hot air balloon pilot with high hopes is new executive director at VCVB

The town's future lies in bringing Valdez to the mind of potential Alaska visitors


September 12, 2018

Steen Weber photo

Don Edwards, the new executive director of the VCVB.

Don Edwards has taken over as the new executive director of the Valdez Convention and Visitor Bureau – and he comes here with many positive plans for the community.

When he was introduced to the city council a week ago Tuesday, he made a few quick and short remarks.

"I love this little town. I think it is the best little town in the state." Edwards said. "I want to get the word out."

Patricia Relay, president of the VCVB board and executive director of the Valdez Museum and Historical Archives, introduced Edwards to Council.

She said there were eight candidates for the position and three were ultimately interviewed before Edwards was narrowed down as the finalist.

However, there is much more to this new resident than his brief remarks to council. Edwards was honorably discharged from the United States Air Force in 1980 and has a Bachelor's degree in Business Management and has been responsible for overseeing the largest event in New Mexico where he was responsible for over 900 volunteers and staff - the New Mexico hot air balloon festival.

Edwards is also a hot air balloon pilot himself.

Edwards, who has spent time in the Air Force at Elmendorf, finally made the decision to move to Alaska permanently in 2015. He first worked for Alaska Geographic in Anchorage.

During an interview with Edwards at his new office at the Visitor Center, it became apparent why he came to Valdez.

"I don't cast a very big net for jobs, when I see something that appeals to me, I do," Edwards said. "I'm not a money motivated guy but I like being involved in things in Alaska because I'm so passionate for this state."

He likes the variety of outdoor activities right outside the front door.

"You've got all these glaciers, all these hiking trails, if you want to go fish, you can go fish," Edwards said. "There is so much to see and do here."

Edwards loves the small-town atmosphere and believes the town's future lies in bringing Valdez to the mind of potential visitors to Alaska as a whole.

"I would like to get the typical Alaska visitor who does the Kenai and Denali. I want them to re-think that and come here," he said. "To get people to have Valdez on the radar when they come to Alaska because I would think the majority of them don't."

With this of course comes goals that Edwards feels aligns with both himself and the expected outcomes of VCVB.

"To promote winter tourism - that's going to be my focus. To try to promote winter tourism," he said. "It's not as hard to get to Valdez as you think and it's a beautiful drive. Incredible."

Despite Edwards' positive views for what he hopes to achieve, there are of course obstacles.

VCVB is a non-profit organization and Edwards said to get the funding to do the things you want to do, you have to get creative.

"I want to see in several years, holy smokes you have this many people coming here," Edwards said and later added, "A lot of people don't know what they are missing by not putting Valdez on their itinerary."


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