It’s human ‘N’ature to not want to work very hard unless it comes to picking fights with local media and ghost writing press releases taking credit for things that would have happened anyway.
Written by Kyle Magin
It takes $42,000 to hire a bully.
That’s how much Sandy Evans-Hall, the CEO of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, got in taxpayer dollars at her organization’s February board meeting as she sought out funds to pay a Minnesota-based company to find her replacement.
Why she couldn’t wander across Highway 89 in Tahoe City to Pete ‘n’ Peters to find someone up to the task is beyond me. Evans-Hall’s six-year Tahoe tenure was pockmarked by event and transit failures, an inability to expand the tourism season and her particular brand of backroom politics. Any beanie-wearing, marginally-employed college grad—there’s plenty around The Lake—should be able to replicate the feat.
The NTLRA’s boardmembers are seeking Evans-Hall’s replacement because the Colorado carpetbagger decided to high-tail it back to the Rockies after following Squaw Valley headman Andy Wirth to con the gullible rubes in the Sierra. I could re-type a lot of high-minded nonsense from NLTRA’s official job description, but I’d rather just tell you how Evans-Hall did the job on the North Shore so you get the picture.
First, her words, from a February Sierra Sun piece tooting her horn:
Evans Hall said that another way the organization is trying to make business steadier during the year is by scheduling large events during the spring and fall slow seasons, what she calls “strike zones” or “shoulder seasons.”
Evans-Hall goes on to name the addition of Tough Mudder to the Tahoe calendar as a success in expanding that strike zone. Tough Mudder—the extreme obstacle race that draws ten thousand-plus annually to Northstar—will take place on June 10-11 this year. The first weekend after school lets out for much of urban California. It has taken place in, variously, mid-June and August over the last four years. That’s peak summer in Tahoe. “No vacancy” signs are lousy around town during that period and nobody really needs help selling the world’s most picturesque alpine lake to visitors.
True, early in its run, Tough Mudder took place in September, but tourism officials, Evans-Hall included, failed to realize its importance and incentivize race organizers to stay in the early fall. She now cuts the Under Armour-backed Brooklyn outfit a $50,000 check from taxpayer funds in exchange for coming to a hugely desirable location during its hugely desirable high season and doing two Facebook posts about it. Both are contractually required to mention NLTRA. Moving the needle!
The soon-to-be-departed CEO also touted the importance of public transit in the piece, and stressed her hand in building that network. Evans-Hall’s ‘contribution’ to Tahoe’s transportation morass–a struggle that can find you waiting up to a half hour to traverse the last mile northbound into Tahoe City from the West Shore, right in front of her office window–was as head cheerleader of a massively subsidized and failed Tahoe water taxi program.
The water taxi was a phenomenally fucked idea to move people to high-end boat-up bars around The Lake, a dozen at a time, in a semi-reliable skiff. It was funded to the tune of $164.22 per rider in 2014, its final summer in existence. What was supposed to move up to 25,000 people around The Lake at $380,000/summer ended up costing Placer County taxpayers $520,000 in 2014 to move just 3,165 riders. Evans-Hall led the charge to boost this clearly flawed initiative–it couldn’t run in any sort of weather or after dark, when riders could maybe catch one bus from the West Shore back to the North Shore or shell out a sensible $60 for a cab. NLTRA marketing collateral was littered with boosterism for the water taxi service–its use was shoehorned into every visitor’s guide the agency put out during its three-year disaster of an existence. That’s Evans-Hall’s transportation legacy: No substantive changes to the region’s TART bus system, no notable cooperation with Truckee or Incline Village or Reno. A fucking $164, taxpayer-funded boat ride to an overpriced mai tai between the hours of 11 and 3.
Evans-Hall did excel at one thing during her time in Tahoe. In 2014, I was serving as the editor of a regional magazine and was working with a writer on a story about how, after successive down winters, ski and snowboard shops were expanding their rental and retail inventories to include bikes and kayaks and other summer toys to make up for the lack of interest in winter. The writer reached out to one of Evans-Hall’s underlings for the piece.
That set off a chain reaction of extreme proportions.
Evans-Hall calls within minutes of getting wind of the story, and with all the ability to understand nuance of a sledgehammer, threatened to go push area ski resorts to pull their advertising with the magazine if the piece wasn’t pulled. To her mind, anything alerting visitors to the past tense fact that we’d had down winters–a fact that news headlines blared all over the country and especially in Tahoe’s tourist breeding ground in the Bay Area–was inexcusable. Unable to understand our side–potentially out of stupidity, probably out of shrill protectionism–Evans-Hall rounded up two ski area flaks to call within minutes to express their opposition to the story. They pushed my publisher to kill the story or face a drop in ad sales.
In light of these accomplishments, I’m forced to draw one conclusion. NLTRA’s board is spending $42,000 to find a bully. Aptitude isn’t necessary in a job that lets you cut $50,000 checks to promote tourism events during a time tourists will be there anyway. Shrewdness doesn’t matter when you can fail to load a boat to nowhere. Just have the ability to manipulate and connive, the rest will take care of itself.