New Carbondale chamber head ‘looking forward to that’ |

New Carbondale chamber head ‘looking forward to that’

Dixie Heyl took over full time as the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce director on April 1, and the phrase “I’m looking forward to that” is sprinkled in many of her conversations these days.

She mentions the chamber’s annual “Taste of Carbondale” this Saturday at Town Hall, the May membership drive, and her own membership with the Mount Sopris Historical Society.

Heyl and her husband, Andrew, were invited to visit her son-in-law’s family in Wales.

“I’m really looking forward to that,” said Heyl, in her upstairs office at the log cabin headquarters of the chamber of commerce on Highway 133.

Mount Sopris, streaked with snow, fills Heyl’s south-facing office window like a framed painting.

“I can’t believe I’m here, it’s so beautiful. I’m glad to be here,” Heyl said.

Heyl comes to the Roaring Fork Valley from the Kansas City area after a career in human resource management with the telecommunications company Sprint. When Sprint reorganized last year and Heyl was given a severance package, she and Andrew, an attorney, decided to move to Basalt. They made the move partly because her son, Robbie Kurtz, his wife, Kerry, and their daughter, Alexandra, live there.

“We’ve been coming out here on a regular basis for nine or 10 years, so we took this opportunity to make a change. We figured we might as well move to Colorado, and we can go on vacation somewhere else,” Heyl said.

Heyl graduated from high school in Olathe, Kan., in 1970, and later earned a master’s degree from Ottawa University in nearby Ottawa, Kan. She is friendly, outgoing and “not one to be afraid of asking questions.” She learned of the chamber of commerce director’s position in December, and figured her human resources experience would be a plus.

The chamber received 50 applications, which were whittled down to 18 who were invited for brief interviews, said former chamber president David Rippe.

Rippe said it was obvious during the interviews that Heyl was new to the Roaring Fork Valley, but she was familiar with local facts, figures and issues.

“She really had done her homework,” said Rippe, who is still on the chamber board. “She understood the issues. We were very impressed.”

Heyl has a lot of interests. She likes to sew, embroider, make quilts and “things for my two granddaughters.” She also likes to hike, ski and bike, and got inline skates for her birthday last year.

Heyl and her husband are also avid movie goers. “We love to go to a lot of movies, usually Friday night.”

Heyl comes to the chamber when the organization is expanding its mission to include more economic development efforts and tourism promotion. She said an equestrian weekend is planned for October to bring Western and English riders to town.

“It will be more of a fun event than competition,” she said.

Next February, the chamber hopes to do a home, garden and antique show.

“I’ve got to do some scouting around to see where we could hold something like that,” Heyl said.

The town of Carbondale is hiring its first economic development director, and Heyl expects to work with that person a lot.

“I’m expecting a lot of conversations on what we want in Carbondale in the next two to five years. There are a lot of very intelligent, professional people working on that. It’s pretty exciting,” she said.

Heyl was in and out of the chamber office in February and March, and came on full time last week. Rippe said he hasn’t had the chance to work with Heyl one-on-one yet, but he’s looking forward to it.

“She hit the ground running,” Rippe said.

Rippe said Heyl has been coming to work at 7:30 a.m., and the chamber light is often on until 8 or 9 p.m. “That’s pretty admirable,” Rippe said.

He also joked that one of the first things Heyl did was to shampoo the chamber carpet, “in the first week of mud season.”

Chamber staffer Laura Nieslanik said she’s enjoying working with her new boss. “It’s going great. She’ll be good for the chamber. She’s full of good ideas, and will move the chamber in a direction it’s never been before.”

Comparing her office in a small, 110-year-old log cabin to a gleaming corporate office building in Kansas City, Heyl said, “We had cubes. In corporate America we’ve got cubes.

“I like working here. Laura is great to work with. If you’ve got to share a cube with someone, I can’t think of anyone better,” she said.

Rippe mentioned Heyl’s people skills as an important factor in her landing the job. She showed those skills with a chamber twist in a recent encounter with a visitor from England.

Heyl said she saw the man in the grocery store parking lot during a recent warm day, and he was just sort of roaming around looking at cars.

“I teased him, and asked `Are you picking out a car?'” she said.

The man explained that he and his wife were from England, that she was inside shopping, and he was just enjoying the weather.

“I didn’t tell him it was uncommonly good weather for this time of year. I didn’t tell him that,” she said.

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