Faithful to the Brand: On Karen DeSollar’s GRCVB Retirement
Thursday, December 07, 2023, 12pm by Jonathan Freeze, CDME, EDP
At GRCVB, staff retirements are rare (despite our staff’s combined 340 years of service!), and though certain staffers lately have retired after decades shaping their department’s strategic scope, it is an even rarer occasion we face this month with the retirement of GRCVB’s creative director Karen DeSollar, who touched almost every Bureau project someway from a communications and design perspective in the last 15 years.
When I arrived at GRCVB during fiscal year 2007-2008, the Marketing Department needed some reshaping to better serve the needs of other Bureau departments as well as meet ever-higher standards of tourism marketing for Raleigh/Wake County, and just two months in, my earliest personnel decision was to onboard Karen DeSollar, then recently transplanted to Raleigh after her first career in communications out West.
Karen joined our Bureau as design manager but, within a few years’ time, moved to assistant director (creative director) status, having learned this newfound industry of destination marketing quickly while bringing exceptional communication skills to a role that soon ranged well beyond graphic design/desktop publishing. (Indeed, Karen has stuck with and excelled at her CVB industry role for longer now than her last position as communications director at a California university.)
My path in life/career had been quite different than Karen’s, but I knew after only a few months of working with her that our skill sets at GRCVB would be highly complementary long-term. She has been the right-brain to my predominant left-brain sensibilities, the visual accompaniment to my verbal script and the Apple to my PC for more than 15 years now; her creative insights will be greatly missed within a GRCVB Marketing and Communications Department that has grown to seven instead of simply three full-time staffers.
In our internal project meetings for years to come, no doubt we’ll be asking ourselves “what tweak would Karen add to that document this time?”—and if ever tempted to let a fresh problem go unsolved, instead we’ll hear our inner voice repeating her favorite mantra, “you can never not communicate.” We’ll be challenged to maintain the thoroughness and spirit of continuous improvement with which Karen approached and shaped every project she designed or managed (including GRCVB’s Annual Meetings each August).
I know all staff at GRCVB join me in appreciation for this second career well-spent by Karen, helping us carry out the mission of the Bureau daily and making all GRCVB marketing communication tools more effective year-over-year since 2008 (and there have been many awards won along the way). I hope she’ll carry with her fond memories of our work and will sense the difference she made in many people’s lives, not least of which Raleigh area visitors’, even if they didn’t know exactly whom to thank for extra clarity in our materials (and Karen is finalizing files for the 2024 Official Visitors Guide as you read this).
If you’d like to send Karen a note of thanks, too, she can be reached until Dec. 20, 2023, at kdesollar@visitRaleigh.com. Congratulations, Karen, on your work retirement… you’re faithful to the end and always faithful to the brand!
Author: Jonathan Freeze, CDME, EDP
Jonathan Freeze, CDME, EDP, has built a career in the marketing of places, leading the Greater Raleigh CVB's marketing efforts since 2008. Though a firm believer in the science of marketing, Jonathan also began his career as a writer and creative wordsmith. In 2021 he contributed an award-winning chapter to the book Tourism Microentrepreneurship (Emerald Publishing), and recently he earned the Entrepreneurship Development Professional (EDP) credential. Learn more