Sheri Siesennop thinks she might have taken on more than she bargained for when she was named Tucson Originals executive director late last month.
The 65-year-old retired CPA has ideas to bring in new members, strengthen ties with businesses that already are part of the independent restaurant group and strengthen the group’s infrastructure to improve its efficiency.
So much for retirement.
“I have a lot of ideas,” Siesennop said, then rattled off a few:
- Grow the membership.
- Continue strengthening the operational end of the organization, from marketing to outreach.
- Create small events that will involve more members.
She and the Originals newly installed board led by President Sam Alboy (owner, Mama’s Hawaiian Bar-B-Cue) and Vice President Coralie Satta (Ghini’s French Cafe) already have penciled in some of those events with member restaurants, including a series of wine dinners and a private Dessert in the Desert event at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
Siesennop said her main goal is to increase the visibility of the Originals and its member restaurants.
“If we can get more people in Tucson to recognize Tucson Originals and independent restaurants, and if we get more people going to independent restaurants, we will have more members wanting to join,” she said.
Alboy said the group is trying to get out of the event planning business, by bringing in the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance to put on its popular World Margarita Championship next fall and teaming up with the Desert Museum for the dessert event in May. Other events in the works include a pizza challenge and the big Humane Society fundraiser Puttin’ On the Dog May 2, one of the Originals’ biggest events of the year.
Siesennop said she hopes the smaller events encourage more members to become active.
“Some of the members who don’t want to commit to two large events can commit to these smaller events,” she said.
She said another priority is to strengthen the organization’s relationships with so-called preferred purveyors — local suppliers including farms and growers.
One step in that direction was the appointment of Jennifer Proctor Zubieta, community relations director for the Green Valley Pecan Co., as board secretary.
Siesennop replaces Colette Landeen, who served five years as Tucson Originals’ first executive director.