CHEYENNE – When Laramie County Commissioner Amber Ash wanted to bring a marathon to Cheyenne, like many others in the community, she looked to Visit Cheyenne CEO Darren Rudloff for help making it happen.
Serving as the head of Visit Cheyenne for more than 20 years, Rudloff became notorious around town for always finding a way to say “yes.” His optimism and innovative mindset allowed for projects like the Depot renovation and the Cheyenne marathon to come to fruition.
“If everyone pitches in in a small way, we can get things done,” Rudloff said.
After two decades of community development and improvement, Rudloff will be stepping down from his position as CEO to continue doing the same type of work with smaller communities across the western U.S.
Rudloff will help the new CEO, Domenic Bravo, transition into the position at the start of next year. But his presence will be sorely missed by those who have worked with him.
“His background and the pieces he’s been a part of over the years, you can’t replace that history overnight,” said Mathius Jung, chief executive officer for Rocky Mountain International.
Like many in the community, Jung has known Rudloff for more than a decade. In creating a culture of collaboration, Rudloff made many close connections with business owners, organization directors and residents in town.
“I’m very grateful for this community and this organization that’s allowed me to play this role,” Rudloff said.
As the head of Visit Cheyenne, Rudloff took a different approach than other tourism and marketing organizations in the state. If a project would improve the community, Rudloff was on board, whether it was a public art installation or a splash pad that required significant community fundraising.
“It’s a lot more exciting to do really cool projects than to do the bare minimum,” Rudloff said.
When Rudloff came to Cheyenne, the Depot was “shuttered.” Instead of being the center of life in the downtown, it more resembled the Hynds Building. Rudloff said breathing life back into that building was one of the “most gratifying” projects he worked on during his time here.
Rudloff collaborated with players like the city of Cheyenne and the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce to transform the Depot into the community asset it is today.
“The fact that the Depot and the Plaza have been a center of civic life now for 15 years is a source of pride,” Rudloff said.
So many projects in the city have Rudloff’s fingerprints on them, which is a testament to his philosophy of teamwork and his “yes, we can” attitude.
At the county commissioners’ last meeting of the year, Rudloff was presented a plaque and coin for his efforts in making Cheyenne and Laramie County a better place to live.
“You have been the envy of every county in the state,” Commissioner Ash said.
This past September, the second annual “Run the Legend” marathon took place in Cheyenne, an event that was made possible with Ash’s idea and Rudloff’s assistance.
“You were the one who helped me pull it together,” Ash said.
Visit Cheyenne took the lead on marketing and race registration, which isn’t common for tourism and marketing organizations to do. Rudloff said that if Ash was the lead guitarist on the project, Visit Cheyenne was the house band behind her.
“I’m proud that we can play that role,” Rudloff said.
Another attribute Rudloff’s peers said they would miss is his consistency and passion. Barry Sims, a member of Visit Cheyenne’s board of directors, has known Rudloff for about 20 years.
“He cares about Cheyenne so much,” Sims said. “He’s well liked. He’s well respected. He puts the needs of Cheyenne and Laramie County above his own.”
Sims called Rudloff “instrumental” in bringing the four economic development groups together to create the Downtown Core Plan, and noted Rudloff was also the key player in gaining access to the Union Pacific Railroad’s steam shop for guided tours.
Sims said Rudloff was supportive of anything that would improve the quality of life for Laramie County residents.
“We’ll just miss his care and his passion for what he does,” Sims said.
And for as much as his peers will miss Rudloff’s spirit and can-do attitude, Rudloff will miss working with Visit Cheyenne.
“I’ve been given the chance to make a difference in the community and to work with a lot of amazing people to get things done,” Rudloff said. “I’ll miss being in the middle of the energy of all the efforts to improve the community.”