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Long-time Utah film and tourism director retires

Published December 27, 2012 9:47 pm

She has seen tourism rise from 19 million to 22 million visitors during her tenure.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The director of the Utah Office of Tourism, Leigh von der Esch, has retired after a long career in state government and promoting Utah tourism.

David Williams, the deputy director of the office, has been appointed acting director.

"Leigh has done much to increase Utah's recognition as a global business destination by launching and promoting the Utah Life Elevated brand and increasing the economic contribution of Utah's $6.8 billion tourism industry," Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement.

During her tenure, tourism increased from 19 million to more than 22 million visitors, and tourism-related jobs have grown to more than 124,000 positions.

Von der Esch had been managing director of the tourism office since 2005. Before that, she served as director the Utah Film Commission from 1985 to 2005. She has also been the chief administrative officer for the Utah Department of Community and Economic Development, executive director for the Salt Lake City Council and legislative director for a U.S. congressman.

"Leigh's efforts and those of her team have created a lasting legacy and have had a definitive impact in growing tourism throughout the state," said Spencer Eccles, executive director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development.

Earlier this month, the Governor's Office announced that Herbert would be replacing Utah Department of Transportation Director John Njord, Department of Corrections Director Tom Patterson and Department of Public Safety Commissioner Lance Davenport.

His office also announced Insurance Commissioner Neal Gooch and Veterans Affairs Director Terry Schow would be retiring.

The changes were an effort to overhaul the governor's 22-member Cabinet as Herbert enters his first full term as governor.

Von der Esch's departure is expected to be the last personnel change for the near future, according to the Governor's Office.