Kristen Jarnagin, acting head of Arizona's statewide hotel trade group, will become the new $125,000-a-year head of the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, which promotes the region's $5.6 billion tourism industry.
Jarnagin, 42, is senior vice president of the 400-member Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association, where she has worked for the past seven years. She has served as the group's acting chief since the organization's top post became vacant this summer.
Gregory DeClemente, chairman of the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Jarnagin was chosen over 80 other candidates.
"She has vision and credentials," said Gloria Rocchio, a board member who heads the Ward Melville Heritage Organization in Stony Brook. "She's a dynamo. She gave a PowerPoint on both her strengths and her weaknesses," including liking pizza too much. "She was very straightforward and very creative," Rocchio said.
The local tourism industry draws 9.1 million overnight visitors a year, and supports 74,000 jobs at 309 hotels in Suffolk and 55 in Nassau and at other local tourism destinations.
Jarnagin, who will head an agency with a $3 million annual budget, said she believes she has the credentials in destination marketing, luxury resorts, management and government lobbying to help build Long Island tourism.
"I knew I wanted to head a convention and visitors bureau, but I also wanted the right one where the destination is iconic that I can be passionate about promoting and provide a great quality of life for my family," she said.
DeClemente said Jarnagin will receive a two-year contract. Her salary will be the same as her predecessor, Yan Baczkowski, who left suddenly in April after eight months on the job. Baczkowski and the board had a dispute over travel and expenses, sources said.
Jarnagin has worked in the travel and tourism industry for more than 15 years in Arizona and applied for the Long Island post before the top post at her Arizona job opened up.
Previously, Jarnagin was director of media relations for the Arizona Office of Tourism and director of public relations for an Arizona luxury resort, the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa in Chandler. For the past three years she also has worked as her association's registered lobbyist.