November – December 2018
Don Newman has been the head of the Elko Convention & Visitors Authority for 13 years, but will step down at the end of this year. Don’s contributions to the area are innumerable—from helping the Elko Convention Center become a reality to supporting the town’s growth at every step—and he will be sorely missed. He’s also served as a commissioner for the Nevada Commission on Tourism for six years, and was on the Nevada Sesquicentennial Committee in 2014. Publisher Janet Geary talked with Don recently.
Don Newman grew up in Las Vegas during the 1960-1970s. Even though the town was experiencing tremendous
growth, it still felt like a small town. “A special place,” Don remembers.
He got his first taste of tourism busing tables at Mr.Porterhouse when he was only 14. He liked to listen to the customers talking about their travels and enjoyed the happy atmosphere at the steakhouse.
In the early 1980s, Don and his wife Joanne were visiting her father in Elko and realized it was very much like the early days in Vegas.
They decided to move there to help with his father-in-law’s business. Soon, Don realized he wanted to get back in to the hospitality industry and went to work at the Red Lion Hotel & Casino in Elko. He started as a part-time purchaser/caterer and quickly worked his way up to the position of hotel manager.
He moved back to Las Vegas for a couple years, still working in the convention industry until he got a call from the Red Lion asking him to come back. They wanted him to manage the Red Lion in Winnemucca and he was able to experience rural Nevada again. When he was tapped for the Elko Convention & Visitors Authority’s (ECVA) executive director position, he jumped at the chance to make a difference for the whole community.
And make a difference is an understatement for Don’s 13 years at the helm of the ECVA. Elko is still experiencing tremendous growth due to the increased mining activity in the area, and this led to several new hotels being built in the last two years. This, in turn, has helped raise room tax dollars, which fund the work of the ECVA. This has allowed them to expand their marketing, which has resulted in a big increase in international visitors to the area.
“The Nevada Division of Tourism and Cultural Affairs has been a major part of the international effort that we’ve been able to benefit from,” Don says.
He says he’ll encourage his successor to stay connected with the tourism and cultural affairs offices to keep abreast of all the opportunities that partnership has to offer.
“Also, make sure to stay active in the community and keep in touch with the volunteers,” he says.
He believes these are the people that will keep Elko’s tourism industry alive and well. He’d like to thank the residents of Elko for all their hard work over the years and also thanks the Division of Tourism and Cultural Affairs for making his job more enjoyable.
“I’m extremely grateful to Governor Sandoval for appointing me to the commission and giving me the opportunity to support the industry that I love,” he says.
Don and Joanne are moving to Boise to be closer to his son Jonathan and his family.
“We want to spend more time with our three grandchildren and then maybe travel a bit. A trip to Santa Barbara to see our daughter and her husband is a definite, then I want to go back to Costa Rica, and then we look forward to seeing more of the U.S.,” Don explains.
We wish him well and thank him for all his support of Nevada Magazine over the years. Happy trails, Don.