Golden

Waving goodbye to Gary Wink

Face of chamber for nearly two decades to depart

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It is no secret that one of Golden’s most influential community leaders has decided to retire.

Gary Wink surprised the city of Golden with his announcement that he will retire January 15 from his position after 19 years as the president and CEO of the Golden Chamber of Commerce.

A determined leader with a sense of humor to boot, Wink has established himself as a master in the broad arena that is community and business relations. Colleagues say it will be hard to replace him as he has immersed himself in the city of Golden for almost two decades; making him a rock that business and residents have leaned on for support, guidance and honesty.

“I don’t think we’re going to find another Gary Wink,” said Ken Kranz, board member for the Golden Chamber of Commerce and president of the board of trustees for the Visitors Center. “Gary is always there doing the work, to the extreme.”

Kranz said Wink’s strong work ethic comes from his days growing up on a dairy farm in Iowa, a childhood known to Kranz who grew up on a farm in South Dakota.

“Gary really brought to this town the good Midwestern work ethic,” he said. “I really think that’s how he’s succeeded in some of these events.”

Wink has received at least a dozen of awards throughout his life starting back in his career in the hotel and restaurant business, where he worked in the industry for 25 years. He was the general manager for Hampden Inns, Residence Inns and other chains.  More recently, he was honored by the Foothills Art Center in 2009, received the “Living Landmark” honor award presented by the Golden Landmark Association and received the Governor’s award for Downtown Excellence in 2012.

Wink arrived in Golden from Roseville, Minn. in 1995, where he managed 13 communities. He relocated to Golden for the chance to focus on just one city. Seeing people enjoy themselves and the satisfaction received from success is what Wink enjoys most about his work with the chamber.

“It just gives me great pleasure to stand on our Christmas stage out there and see the thousands of people that are out there having a good time,” Wink said. “It makes me feel good to create something that makes those people feel good.”

Surrounded by memorabilia in his office from projects which have contributed to a growing city including novelty hardhats and hammers, Wink skims through his “Rolodex” of numbers on a yellow legal pad. “I’m on my eighth page,” he said. “I’m going to miss the people, there have been a bunch of people in this town that have been so supportive.”

The Farmer’s Market and the Fine Arts Festival are among some of Wink’s favorite annual events to work on.

Approaching its 24th year, the Fine Arts Festival is the biggest summer event for Golden, one of the most successful fine arts fest in the state drawing in artists from 14 different states and 35,000 to 40,000 visitors.

“Gary has definitely been at the lead on that and has kept the direction and the vision of the festival being for the artists,” Nancy Taylor Mason, owner of Baby Doe’s and marketing chair for the Fine Arts Festival said. “The attitude of the people involved in those committees, part of that is a loyalty of what’s been created and that whole vision, it’s because of that leadership that we have such strong momentum.”

Rumors have circulated Wink’s retirement is due to illness. But Wink stated that his decision to leave the chamber has nothing to do with his health and everything to do with his family.

“The main reason I’m retiring is because I want to spend time with my granddaughter,” he said. “She just turned one, and we hardly know each other because when I’m available she’s not, so I want to spend more time with my family.”

Applications are being received for Wink’s position, and Kranz who is also a part of the selective committee said that despite the Dec. 20 application deadline, the committee has every intention of taking their time to find the right person for the job.

For now, Wink has three weeks left before he leaves his post and he has already started to quiet down the Iowa farm boy work ethic that is still in him, and focus more on his family.

His colleague Jayne Byl, who is one of the applicants for the president position, spoke on Wink’s dedication and assertive leadership.

“You knew what Gary expected of you, and you respected that,” Byl said. “I always will,” she said.  “You can’t replace him, you never will.”

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