Las Vegas tourism chief gets surprise tribute marking 40 years

Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority speaks during Preview Las Vegas 2012 at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012.

When it comes to local events, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter is always in the know.

But he didn’t see a tribute coming this morning at today’s meeting at which board members marked his 40 years with the LVCVA.

Ralenkotter received a video tribute, with remarks from the LVCVA’s 14 board members, Sen. Harry Reid, tourism industry colleague Roger Dow, and proclamations from the state, the county and Clark County’s five municipalities. He received two standing ovations from the meeting’s overflow crowd, which included his wife, Mary Jo.

Remarks about Ralenkotter’s time with the LVCVA appeared in the federal register this morning and were recorded in the Congressional Record.

Ralenkotter has no plans to slow down.

“I enjoy what I do and I’m going to continue to do it,” Ralenkotter said after today’s meeting. “It’s always been a team effort, but to be able to market your hometown and the excitement of what Las Vegas is all about for all these years has been extremely gratifying.”

Ralenkotter, who turns 66 in April, said he hasn’t considered retirement.

“No two days have been the same,” Ralenkotter said. “I continue to have fun, and I enjoy every single day. We have a lot of challenges out there, including the new Las Vegas Global Business District, to take this facility and enhance what we have and make it competitive for the next 35 or 40 years.”

Ralenkotter began working at the LVCVA on March 19, 1973, as a research analyst. On his first day on the job, he was assigned to go to lunch with former National Football League star and broadcasting legend Frank Gifford.

Through his time at the LVCVA, he was promoted to vice president of marketing for the LVCVA and, in 2004, he was named president and CEO, succeeding Manuel Cortez.

Since then, he has traveled worldwide to promote Las Vegas and has been a leading tourism authority in the United States, meeting on several occasions with key policymakers and U.S. presidents.

After the meeting, board and staff members congratulated themselves on being able to keep the surprise until today.

“I was a little suspicious when my wife asked me what time I was going to go in to work,” Ralenkotter said. “And then, when I caught a glimpse of her coming into the meeting, I knew something was up.”

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