BOISE – Idaho’s longtime tourism chief along with the head of the state’s international trade were laid off Monday as part of Commerce Director Jeff Sayer’s reorganization of his 53-person agency.
Karen Ballard, the state’s tourism division chief for the past six years and a tourism staffer for more than 20 years, is out of a job, as is Damien Bard, chief of the department’s Division of International Business.
“Our reorganization is really us trimming back at the top levels of management, and streamlining our team,” Sayer said.
Commerce will now have just three divisions: Administration, headed by Megan Ronk, former government relations, marketing and public relations officer; Business Expansion, including the international division, community development and more, headed by current team leader Gynii Gilliam; and Business Creation, including tourism along with sales and marketing, business attraction and national sales. The department is seeking a leader for that division.
Ballard said she won’t reapply for the manager post.
“That is a reclassify and a downgrade of what my current position is,” she said. With a chuckle, she said, “Basically, they’re splitting my job up into two different directions, which makes me feel better for the amount of work my job was, it needing to be split.”
Sayer will brief the Idaho Travel Council on the changes at its meeting this week.
“I feel like it’s an enhancement to what we’re doing right now,” he said.
Ballard said staffers knew Sayer, who’s been on the job two years, was working on a reorganization.
“We actually helped him with some of these ideas that he came up with,” she said. “I had not anticipated that it would be the elimination of my job, but I understand what he’s trying to do, and it could be very productive for him.”
Bard has worked in international trade promotion for more than 15 years and has headed the international business division for the past six years.
“These are two high-quality individuals who have done a lot of great things for the state,” Sayer said. “That’s what made this so hard. … This has been gut-wrenching, but necessary.”