Katie Grice, TAC Chair (Big Sky)
Background of life and work in Montana: I made the move to Montana a few weeks after graduating from college in Michigan. My goal was to expand my knowledge of the hospitality and tourism industry, and of course take advantage of the boundless recreation in the state. I spent my first 7 years as a National Sales manager for Big Sky Resort, travelling the country to promote meeting and convention business in Big Sky. I then spent two years working remotely for Expedia.com as a Market Manager for the state. I currently have the honor of serving as the DIrector of Sales for Big Sky Resort.
Favorite Montana place or activity you would recommend to someone visiting Montana: The 4-season recreation in Montana is unbeatable, and it is difficult to choose my favorite adventure. Although, one of my most memorable trips was spending 5 days canoeing the 59 mile stretch of the Smith river. The purity of the area, ability to disconnect, and world classing fishing with great friends was priceless.
Which brand pillar do you most closely associate with: Of the three strategic Montana Tourism Brand Pillars, I relate with “Breathtaking experiences by day and relaxing hospitality at night”. I’m passionate about this statement because I know our visitors, wherever they are in the state, are captivated by the scenic beauty. However, our guests return because of Montana hospitality. We are inviting, eager and have the best hospitality professionals in the country. Simply stated, Montana tourism thrives because of the people. I am proud to serve on TAC and work with brilliant Montanans.
Rachel Gregg, TAC Vice-Chair (Missoula)
Background of life and work in Montana: Rachel Gregg arrived in Montana in 2005 to take a seasonal job at St. Mary Lodge in Glacier National Park. Following her stint in Glacier, Rachel relocated to Missoula and completed her Bachelors and Masters Degree in Communication at the University of Montana. After working in venue management and ticketing for Missoula’s Historic Wilma Theater and the Adams Center, Rachel joined the Montana Film Office in 2013, coordinating efforts to market Montana as a destination for movie and television production. Today Rachel is the Executive Director of the Big Sky Film Institute and produces the annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.
Favorite Montana place or activity you would recommend to someone visiting Montana: My favorite place in Montana is always on the river - I highly recommend white water on the Clark Fork’s Alberton Gorge, or for a day of fishing, hit Rock Creek for bank casts or the Madison at good flow for a Rainbow challenge. I also have a soft spot for Norris Hot Springs, Bluegrass, local food and a soak in the Water of the Gods cures all.
What was your most incredible Montana experience and why: Though many of my most memorable Montana adventures undoubtedly include explorations of Glacier National Park, I’m more likely to be found spending my free time today camping or floating. A 2015 float on the Smith River introduced me to a paradise I had never imagined. For 5 days we floated, fished, camped and played along a blue ribbon trout stream flush with fish and winding between dramatic cliffs for nearly 60 miles. Dutch oven dinners, daily floatillas, and watery seclusion in the Montana wilderness is an experience I will never forget.
Alger Swingley (Great Falls)
Background of life and work in Montana: Alger was born in Browning, Montana and currently resides in Great Falls, MT. His personal travels, business experience, and more than 25 years of guiding and outfitting experience led him to achieve his lifelong dream of becoming a professional hunting and fishing outfitter. Living within the boundaries of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation provided Swingley with exceptional hunting and fishing opportunities and familiarity with the Badger Two Medicine region and game habitat. Because of his knowledge and expertise in hunting and fishing, he established Blackfeet Outfitters on the Blackfeet Reservation in 2007. He expanded his business to include jeep tours, cultural bus tours, and float trips. Since becoming a state licensed outfitter, Swingley focuses his operations on state lands to include guided hunting and fishing. Swingley is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe and is a licensed and full-service “Hunting /Fishing and Packing” outfitter in the state of Montana. Swingley maintains state certification as an Emergency Medical Technician including Paramedic Training at Great Falls College MSU.
Favorite Montana place or activity you would recommend to someone visiting Montana: I highly recommend hunting, fishing, or hiking adventures in the ancient lands of the Badger Two Medicine National Forest, which is significant to the deep-rooted heritage, spiritually and culturally, of the Blackfeet Native Americans. Montana offers great vast unspoiled lands for fair chase big game and bird hunting in addition to fishing native and non-native fish from Montana’s trophy trout lakes or the blue-ribbon streams such as the Missouri River.
What direction would you like to see our tourism products/strategies expand in the future: It is my sincere desire to promote Native tourism in the state of Montana and see my fellow Native People succeed by removing barriers, obstacles, and challenges that hinder our people’s success both on and off the reservation. As a Blackfeet Tribal Member I envision the need to restore economic development, improve health care, and increase educational and employable opportunities for Native people on the reservation in the plight of poverty, hopelessness, and despair. Employment opportunities pave the road to educational attainment by motivating Native youth to strive for dignity in the workforce. I support local and regional economy in the form of employment and expenses incurred by tourists, which in turn stimulate our economy. While bringing economic benefits to indigenous communities, tourists learn that American Indian culture is alive and they can experience the spiritual connection of our Native people with accurate and authentic stories, traditions, and spiritual connection of those who inhabited our Native lands for the thousands of years. This immersive cultural experience provides an opportunity to bring healing to our Native people oppressed by decades of oppression.
Bill McGladdery (Butte)
Background of life and work in Montana: I have been in the hotel industry for over thirty-five years and have worked in Ohio, New York, Arizona and Colorado before moving to Montana. I serve as the Director of Corporate Communications for Town Pump and work with our 3,500 team members to understand their part in Montana's second largest industry, tourism!
Favorite Montana place or activity you would recommend to someone visiting Montana: I highly recommend that they spend some time in Missouri River Country. The beauty of the Montana plains and the abundance of wild life is un-paralleled anywhere in the United States. It is definitely an area of our great state where the roads are less traveled; a place where you can feel the expanse of Big Sky Country. The communities in Missouri River Country are authentic; friendly people who display a true spirit of hospitality.
What was your most incredible Montana experience and why: Traveling between Choteau and Great Falls one day I saw several Montana Cowboys pushing a herd of cattle. Being born in Detroit and my knowledge of beef was that it was something you purchased in a grocery store I had to pull over watch and take some pictures. A true western experience that I know visitors from out of state appreciate.
Brian Sprenger (Belgrade)
Background of life and work in Montana: I have been fortunate to live in Montana most of the past 43 years. Over this timeframe I was lucky enough to be a skier at Big Sky in their second year and to have lived in two of the most beautiful parts of Montana, the Gallatin Valley and the Flathead valley. With nearly 35 years of experience at airlines and airports in Montana, I have a very thorough perspective of tourisms growth and impact on Montana.
Favorite Montana place or activity you would recommend to someone visiting Montana: I love southwest Montana and all that it has to offer but my favorite place is downtown Bozeman. My wife and I regularly enjoy all the shopping, dining and entertainment options that one could ask for in a span of just few easily walkable blocks. The vibrancy and excitement of the downtown area brings together one of Montana’s greatest assets, its friendly people and we enjoy the opportunity to meet up with both old and new friends.
What was your most incredible Montana experience and why: My most incredible Montana experience was when I had the opportunity to fly between Bozeman and Kalispell on a beautiful June evening. There are few words to express the awe one experiences when looking out over the richly green mountains with a clear blue sky as the sun sets. It is a reminder that we are part of something much bigger.
Glenniss Indreland, TAC Chair (Bozeman)
Background of life and work in Montana: Being raised on a cattle ranch near Livingston provided a tremendous work ethic and appreciation for the land. I attended Montana State University where I studied graphic design. After getting my degree, I ventured out into the big world, working in advertising, design and multi-media in the Chicago area and later with a large advertising agency in Albuquerque NM handling the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau. Upon returning to Montana, I settled in Bozeman and was with the Big Sky Resort marketing department for nearly 30 years. I recently revived my freelance graphic design and marketing business with an emphasis on historic and non-profit support materials. My extra-curricular involvement includes cycling, camping, volunteering at various arts organizations around Bozeman, and participating in a bucket-drum corps.
Favorite Montana place or activity you would recommend to someone visiting Montana: Many visitors have checked Yellowstone National Park off their bucket list, so I recommend visiting one of our 55 State Parks. I have visited a dozen of them myself, and am continually amazed at the natural and cultural resources we have in Montana. An adventure day is complete with a Montana micro-brew, found all across the state.
What direction would you like to see our tourism products/strategies expand in the future: When combined with the impact of outdoor recreation, tourism is the leading economic driver for the State of Montana. I hope our residents understand the value of inviting visitors to our beautiful state – respectful visitors who will appreciate all we have to offer: from the mountains to the prairies, from the vibrant towns to the Indian lands. As agri-tourism experiences grow, I hope that this renewable resource partnership will positively affect all areas of the state.
Jeff Ewelt (Billings)
Please provide a brief background of your life and work in Montana: I have been involved with animals for twenty years. Upon my graduation from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Communication, Education and Interpretation, I was working at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio as a presenter and animal trainer. In 2000, I accepted a position at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo as the Animal Ambassador Manager. After 10 years in Florida, along with my wife and newborn son, I decided to slow things down a bit by moving to Montana. In 2011, I accepted the position of Executive Director at ZooMontana in Billings.
What is your favorite Montana place or activity you would recommend to someone visiting Montana: ZooMontana! My team and I have worked incredibly hard since 2011 to bring back the zoo from near closure. It is an incredible day trip that can inspire, educate and excite multiple generations. As the only true zoological park in Montana, ZooMontana is dedicated to education and the conservation of wildlife around the globe. In terms of outdoor recreation, a true hidden gem is the Bighorn Canyon. You MUST boat it.
Which of the three Montana tourism brand pillars do you most closely associate with: More spectacular, unspoiled nature than anywhere else in the lower 48. There is never a time that I head outdoors with my family and come home disappointed. Every corner of this remarkable state offers something unique. Whether it is the badlands of Terry or the glaciers of Glacier National Park, the range of beauty is unmatched. For me personally, the most striking aspect of this unspoiled nature is the silence within these areas.
Joe Willauer (Twin Bridges)
Background of life and work in Montana: I moved to Montana over 10 years ago working as the head guide for a fly fishing lodge in Twin Bridges. After 11 years of full time guiding I moved into economic development and currently serve as the executive director of the Butte Local Development Corporation. My wife and 2 kids love living in SW Montana because of the numerous outdoor recreation opportunities that surround us.
Favorite Montana place or activity you would recommend to someone visiting Montana: The Big Hole River. There are many great trout rivers in Montana, but the great fishing, incredible beauty and lack of crowds make the Big Hole a truly special place.
What direction would you like to see our tourism products/strategies expand in the future: I would love to see the push to support outdoor recreation continued. I truly believe that this is one of our best opportunities for tourism growth as a state, and it creates quality jobs that help grow and sustain many of our rural communities. The amount of outdoor recreation opportunities we have is unmatched and makes our state the best.
Dr. Kenneth Ryan (Poplar)
Background of your life and work in Montana: I am an Assiniboine Tribal member of the Fort Peck Tribes and a U.S. Army Veteran with 49 years of professional experience working in the field of Native American Affairs in Tribal Government and Higher Education. I graduated from Wolf Point High School, MT, in 1962. I have a BA in Political Science from Weber State University, Ogden, UT (1975); a Master’s Degree in Human Services from the University of Great Falls, MT (1998); and a Doctorate of Humanities from the University of Montana, Missoula, MT (1995).
Favorite Montana place or activity you would recommend to someone visiting Montana: All of Montana
Which brand pillar do you most closely associate with: More spectacular, unspoiled nature than anywhere else in the lower 48. In 60 years I have traveled by automobile, train, bus and plane throughout most of Montana. Throughout the Rocky Mountains, The Big Snowy Mountains, the Little Snowy Mountains, The Bear’s Paw Mountains, the Little Rocky Mountains, the Flathead Valley, the Bitterroot Valley, Glacier Park, Yellowstone Park, the Gallatin Valley, The Great Falls of the Missouri River, Fort Peck Lake, the Yellowstone River Valley, the Badlands, the Plains and the Big Blue Skies of Montana are all stunning in their unsurpassed beauty. I love all parts of the State of Montana.
Lindzy Brunson (Kalispell)
Background of life and work in Montana: I am currently employed by Kalispell Regional Healthcare in Kalispell, MT, as an International Medical Services Coordinator. In this division, I am involved in clinical and operational matters related to assisting patients with medical and surgical care. I assist in planning, operations, clinical care, and marketing, to populations outside of Montana through the United States, and Canada. The focus of my work is to attract, facilitate, and assist individuals with medical needs to choose Kalispell, MT as their destination for medical care. In addition to promotion of the assets that Kalispell Regional Medical and our doctors have to offer, the benefits of Montana are stressed and highlighted as a fantastic place to visit and for the patient to receive care and for families that come with the patient to enjoy what Montana has to offer.
Favorite Montana place or activity you would recommend to someone visiting Montana: My favorite place in Montana is Flathead Lake. I love spending my summer on the boat with family and friends, enjoying the brisk water, beautiful view, and peaceful environment. The two treasures I delight in showing off to visiting friend are Flathead Lake and Glacier National Park.
What was your most incredible Montana experience and why: My most incredible Montana experience happened the day I moved to Montana. I have traveled multiple places and lived in a variety of different location such as Hawaii, California, Kentucky, and Indiana. I had never been to Montana prior to moving here and the moment I drove into Flathead Valley I felt an overwhelming feeling of home. Montana has been my home now for 7 years and I have no intention of ever moving again!
Patricia McGlynn (Kalispell)
Background of life and work in Montana: I have worked for Montana State University Extension for over 10 years. As an associate professor and county agent, it is my pleasure to work with Montana citizens in the area of agriculture research, community development and natural resource management. My goal is to help preserve the natural landscape of this beautiful state by providing educational opportunities for agriculture producers and residents. When agriculture is economically sustainable, it is better able to compete with development pressure. I assist landowners in learning how to be better stewards of their property through managing their pastures, livestock, water and woodlots.
Favorite Montana place or activity you would recommend to someone visiting Montana: The mountain peaks of Glacier National Park greet me to the east as I drive into work every day. A day does not pass that I am not in awe of their majesty. The Flathead offers white water rafting, hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, camping, horseback riding and other activities throughout the year. I love outdoor events during every season. I enjoy skijouring, the Dragonboat races, farmers markets, Whitefish winter carnival, and the Event at Rebecca Farm, to name a few.
What direction would you like to see our tourism products/strategies expand in the future: In my role as a member of the TAC Committee, I hope to be able to increase the impact of the work I have been doing on agritourism activities in Montana. Helping farmers market their businesses and expanding opportunities for tourists is a win-win for the state. There is room for growth in this area that is sure to please the geo-traveler looking for authentic experiences.
Rhonda Fitzgerald (Whitefish)
Background of life and work in Montana: Rhonda owns the Garden Wall Inn in downtown Whitefish. She is an appointed Director of the Whitefish CVB and vice-chair of Whitefish’s downtown business association, Heart of Whitefish. Heart of Whitefish partnered with the City of Whitefish to develop, adopt and implement its highly successful Downtown Business District Masterplan. She is a Board member of the Crown of the Continent Geotourism Council.
Rhonda was awarded Montana Tourism Person of the Year in 2009, and Whitefish Community Person of the Year in 2003. As a member of the Montana Tourism Advisory Council Rhonda guided the development of the Montana Tourism Charter and the MONTANA BRAND. She served as chair of the TAC in 2011-2012. Rhonda is co-chair of the Main Street Montana Project Tourism Key Industry Network.
Favorite Montana place or activity you would recommend to someone visiting Montana: Glacier National Park is a truly spectacular place, unlike anywhere else. Hike a few miles into the Park, you are surrounded by breathtaking majesty. Sheer walls of red and green rock, lush forests, tumbling waterfalls and deep azure lakes. Indescribable really! In Fall- golds, reds and oranges contrast with the deep blue sky, in Spring-every color of green reflects in the still pools and rushing water. In Winter- silent but for the swish of your skis crossing the magnificent landscape blanketed in snow.
Which brand pillar do you most closely associate with: I associate equally with the three BRAND Pillars, as they are integrally connected, and must work together to achieve the effect of conveying the essence of Montana.
- More spectacular unspoiled nature: The primary reason that visitors, our customers, come to Montana. Also, the reason I live here!
- Vibrant charming small towns as gateways to natural wonders: Tells visitors that they will have the basics of civilization and a great small town experience. I work hard in my community to insure we deliver on the promise of charm and vibrancy.
- Breathtaking experiences by day and relaxing hospitality at night: Visitors want the spectacular experiences, but need to be reassured they will also have "creature comforts". In my business, we strive every day to provide the comfort counterpoint to their exhilarating days.
Sandi Luckey (East Helena)
Background of life and work in Montana: I grew up in Fort Shaw. I spent summers running four wheelers and floating the Sun River. As an adult, I’ve lived in Great Falls, Plains, Butte, and East Helena. I love that each community also has its own personality. I have worked in the Montana Labor movement for twenty seven years. I was an apprentice running heavy equipment and building roads all over the state. Later I worked for labor organizations including Operating Engineers Local #400, American Federation of Teachers, and Communications Director for the MT AFL-CIO. Currently, I’m a Labor Representative for the Montana Nurses Association. I believe that Montana’s treasure is in our people as much as our land and skies.
Favorite Montana place or activity you would recommend to someone visiting Montana: Bannack State Park is a rare gem. No one should miss a historic tour of Butte. Glacier Park will leave you awestruck on your 10th time through just as quick as your first. Everyone should take a snowmobile up to the top of any mountain in the depths of winter to see the wind swept snow covering the trees like a swirling can of whip cream.
What was your most incredible Montana experience and why: I was working on the road from Glasgow to the Fork Peck Damn. Late one night I drove out to the damn alone and just sat and watched this large body of water by the moonlight. A storm moved in. The thunder and lightening cracked so loud it felt like it stopped my heart. The bolts were the fattest I’d ever seen. There were so many they spanned the width of the lake. It was terrifying but also magnificent.
Sandra Johnson Thares (Great Falls)
Background of life and work in Montana: I have been involved with my family owned business for 24 years in Great Falls. I’m the General Manager of the O’Haire Inn, Clark & Lewie’s Restaurant and Catering and the ever famous Sip ’n Dip Lounge. I went to school in Great Falls and Billings. I currently reside in Great Falls with my husband and two teenage sons, who swear they will never get into the “family business.” And yes, I sew the mermaid tails.
Favorite Montana place or activity you would recommend to someone visiting Montana: I love to spend time in the outdoors of Montana. My favorite place, and one I recommend to all of my guests, is the Sun Canyon and Gibson Reservoir area, Northwest of Augusta. The fishing is great, the hiking trails are plentiful, and the scenery is stunning.
In what direction would you like to see our tourism products/strategies expand in the future: I would like to see our tourism strategies compliment the work that the various communities have been doing on their own in securing convenient and affordable airfare travel, and make sure we are targeting those metro areas in our marketing plan.
Steve Wahrlich (Billings)
Background of life and work in Montana: I put butts into beds. I have owned and operated hotels throughout the west since 1974. In 2005 I purchased and continue to operate the Best Western Plus ClockTower Inn in Billings, Montana. I believe and practice trying to make the state of Montana better. My belief is, if the state of MT does better, the city of Billings will do better, downtown Billings will do better and in the end my business will do better; which will give me more time and opportunity to make the state better.
Favorite Montana place or activity you would recommend to someone visiting Montana: My favorite place in Montana isn’t one place; it is enjoying the outdoors of Big Sky Country. Whether it is skiing in the winter, hiking in the spring or summer, fishing, bike riding, camping, golfing or just relaxing under the Montana sky with friends, Montana cannot be equaled for its quality of outdoor activities.
Most incredible Montana experience and why: On my first trip through Yellowstone National Park in late September, the sun was setting as I was coming around a blind corner, (yes probably driving faster than I should) I literally ran in to (didn’t hit) a large herd of Buffalo. I was awestruck by the sheer size and tenderness of this animal. I had never seen such a majestic creature that appeared to have no care in the world just walking down the road. Amazing!
Tami Burke (Glasgow)
Background of life and work in Montana: I am a locally grown Montana girl who grew up in Bridger and Laurel then planted roots in Glasgow a.k.a. the Middle of Nowhere. My husband and I own and operate a family cattle ranch and outfitting business, Burke Ranch Outfitters in south Valley County. I am continually inspired by opportunities to make a difference, and I do that by finding innovative ways to improve our businesses and the community I live, work and play in. I have spent the last 27 years living in Glasgow where my leadership skills have continued to blossom working as a business partner in the agriculture and tourism industries. Passionate about adventures in northeast Montana the focus of my work has been to attract, facilitate and assist community members and guests alike that choose northeast Montana as their home or destination.
Favorite Montana place or activity you would recommend to someone visiting Montana: My most favorite place in Montana from corner to corner and everything in between is the outdoors. My “Montana Adventure list” includes watching the sage grouse dance in the spring, listening to the bull elk bugling in the fall, taking in the northern lights and the big starry sky, reeling in a big walleye during the summer, pulling a big northern pike through a hole in the ice or landing a carp with your fly rod, floating one of our beautiful rivers and lakes to soaking up the beauty of winter in Yellowstone National Park on cross country skis and I never skip an opportunity to take in a field to fork or farm to table experience.
Which brand pillar do you most closely associate with: I associate closely with the brand pillar, Breathtaking experiences by day and relaxing hospitality at night. I am passionate about Montana adventures and the feeling of awe they create, from the great outdoors to our arts community and our foodie experiences they always leave me feeling recharged in this chaotic world. Never underestimate the power of a staycation in Montana.