Mar 26, 2015

Meeteetse businesswoman named county’s events coordinator

Prepare to say goodbye to the Park County fair director and hello to the Park County events coordinator.

On Tuesday, Park County commissioners announced and formalized their hire of Echo Renner, a Meeteetse businesswoman and rancher, as the county’s first events coordinator.

In the post, Renner will not only be responsible for overseeing the fairgrounds, as the fair director currently does, but will also be charged with coordinating and seeking out public events at other county facilities.

“I think Echo will do a marvelous job,” Commission Chairman Joe Tilden said at Tuesday’s meeting, to agreement from his fellow commissioners.

Renner said in a later interview that she was drawn to the job by the prospect of planning events, something she loves to do.

Echo Renner
“And of course, the fair was a huge draw, because I love the fair and 4-H and FFA — and I love working with young people,” she said adding, “It’s such a fun and positive experience for people ... and I’m really excited about that opportunity.”

The decision also means that Park County Fair Director Jennifer Lohrenz is officially out of a job at the end of June.

“I was publicly asked to apply by commissioners but I was not asked to interview,” Lohrenz said Wednesday. “I anticipate there will be changes in the future. I have thoroughly enjoyed managing the fair and I wish only the best for its future.”

Commissioners said 15 people applied for the post and they chose five finalists; Lohrenz was not among them.

“We had an excellent group of candidates. It was a very difficult decision,” Tilden said of making a hire.

The relationship between the fair board and commission became strained in recent years, in part because of conflict over who was in charge of making decisions on the fairgrounds: Should it be fair board-directed fair staff like Lohrenz, who managed the facilities, or commission-directed buildings and grounds staffers, who maintained them?

The new events coordinator ultimately answers to the commission and not the fair board, a change in structure that rankled some board members.

Fair board members and commissioners have blamed each other for the conflict.


“I just want to give everyone the opportunity to let me know their position and the things that they would like and expect — and I want to know how we can work together, because I'm very willing to do that,” Renner said.

Commissioner Bucky Hall said Tuesday that commissioners are trying to mend fences and get along with the fair board members.

“Their roles will not change,” Hall said. “They just don’t have that quote, headache, unquote, of an employee any longer.”

“Well said,” added Commissioner Loren Grosskopf.

Asked about the conflict, Renner said she wants to meet “with everyone involved and anyone who wants to visit me” about the fair or any of the past issues.

“I want to hear all sides, and I want to hear people’s grievances and their ideas for improvement,” Renner said. “I guess I just want to give everyone the opportunity to let me know their position and the things that they would like and expect — and I want to know how we can work together, because I'm very willing to do that.”

She will be paid $48,000 — the same pay that Lohrenz was receiving — in the expanded position.

Tilden expects the county will need to add a marketing budget for Renner. He said the county wanted “somebody that’s going to go out and actively market what we have” and was impressed with Renner’s marketing experience.



Renner said she wants to meet “with everyone involved and anyone who wants to visit me” about the fair or any of the past issues.

She did writing, editing, marketing and event planning for about a decade through her own business, Wood River Marketing Co., and previously led the Meeteetse visitor center and museum. She’s planned fundraisers, historic ranch tours, family reunions and all kinds of parties and gatherings.

Renner also has first-hand experience with events on Park County property, having run a festival/flea market called the Gypsy Market on the grounds of the Park County Complex last year. Part of the commissioners’ reasoning for creating the new, expanded position was because of a rising number of public events on county property — and they had specifically mentioned the Gypsy Market as being one of them.

Beyond that, Renner’s past experience includes working as a 4-H and Montana State University Extension agent, serving as a 4-H leader in Nebraska and Wyoming and helping the Meeteetse FFA for the past several years.

She and her husband own and manage Mountain West Screen Printers and Embroidery in Cody.

Commissioners said Renner eventually will be based in Powell, but when she starts on April 7, she’ll work from a spare desk in the county’s Planning and Zoning Department at the Park County Courthouse in Cody.

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