Consultants Seek Direction for Oregon Wine

Oregon Wine Board sees chance to change direction as search begins for Jeanette Morgan's replacement

by Kate Lavin
Oregon Wine Board
Portland, Ore.—It’s not customary for a hands-on vineyard manager to spend a week at the Oregon Wine Board’s downtown office during prime winegrape-growing season, but since Tuesday, the day after it was announced that Jeanette Morgan had stepped down from the executive director post she’d held since Nov. 1, Leigh Bartholomew has been on-site to answer questions among the pared-down staff and concerned members.

Bartholomew, who works as vineyard manager at 10,000-case Archery Summit Winery, Dayton, Ore., was appointed to the OWB’s board of directors by former Gov. Ted Kulongoski. On Wednesday she told Wines & Vines that the search already is under way for a new executive director; Napa’s Benchmark Consulting is organizing the recruitment process.

Do board members plan to change the job description for the next executive director? “Everybody is starting to put down their dreams and aspirations on paper,” Bartholomew said. “Nothing is set yet.”

The next step
Bartholomew and board chairman Sam Tannahill, a partner in 135,000-case A to Z Wineworks and 12,000-case Rex Hill Vineyards, Newberg, said that Morgan submitted her resignation Monday, effective immediately. Others in the industry said that meetings were held last week to plan for Morgan’s departure.

Oregon Wine Board
Steve Burns and Stacie Jacob are working with the Oregon Wine Board during its leadership transition.

The board announced Monday that Steve Burns, former executive director of the Washington Wine Commission and partner at O’Donnell Lane LLC, Glen Ellen, Calif., would join Stacie Jacob, who recently announced her departure from the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, in working with the OWB to strategize next steps and create a seamless transition for the incoming leader. The pair previously worked together at the Washington Wine Commission, and Jacob is leaving the PRWCA to launch Soltera Strategies, a Paso Robles-based consulting firm for wine industry clients.

Speaking today from Paso Robles, Jacob said that the first step will be assessing the situation with the Oregon board and deciding on how to prioritize resources to benefit marketing and public policy initiatives and set the stage for the new executive director.

Given the professional experience of both Burns and Jacob in running regional wine trade associations, one might expect either of them to be a perfect fit for the director role in Portland, but both insist they are committed to aiding strictly from a consulting level.

“Stacie and I are working to make ourselves obsolete,” Burns told Wines & Vines. “You try to set up an organization for success without you.” Burns added that meeting with members, staff and the board, reviewing past strategic plans and holding planning retreats are orders of priority that he hopes will give the incoming leadership a “road map” from which to work.

And as far as that leadership goes, “Résumés are already rolling in,” he said.

Tying up loose ends
While Burns and Jacob start building marketing plans from the ground up, Tannahill said that a couple of land-use bills will continue to be a high priority for board members until the state’s legislative session ends in a few weeks. Then members can focus on the future.

“In every opportunity there are challenges,” Tannahill said. “I see this as the beginning of a new era.”

Jeanette Morgan joined the Oregon Wine Board in November 2010 as executive director. Previously she served as vice president of global government affairs at California-based National Semiconductor Corp. When Wines & Vines spoke to Morgan a few weeks ago, she said she had spent the past six months learning about the industry by meeting with winery owners and grapegrowers across the state, emphasizing that wineries have “very different business models” and commenting on the innovative and collaborative nature of Oregon wine.

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