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Published May 18, 2012, 03:07 PM

Charley Johnson to 'work without a script' as new head of Fargo Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau

FARGO – The last time the Fargo Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau picked a president, he had a background as a part-time weatherman and stuck around for more than 20 years. So board Chairman Tom Kasper figures a full-time TV anchorman should be good for at least 40.

FARGO – The last time the Fargo Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau picked a president, he had a background as a part-time weatherman and stuck around for more than 20 years. So board Chairman Tom Kasper figures a full-time TV anchorman should be good for at least 40.

With that – and likely a few other qualifying factors – in mind, the organization tabbed Charley Johnson, a longtime television personality and manager, as its next president and chief executive. The move was announced Friday.

Johnson, 61, is the third person to lead the organization, which was founded in 1981. He’ll take over in late June when his predecessor, Cole Carley, steps down. Carley has been in the job since 1990.

A Concordia College graduate, Johnson has been in broadcasting since 1972, when he got his start at KNOX radio in Grand Forks. He spent a dozen years as general manger of KVLY and KXJB Television covering Fargo and Valley City, and is currently an anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks.

He said he was honored and surprised to come out on top of a process that included about 100 candidates.

“The first person who contacted me as a recruiter said, ‘You know, you don’t really quite fit the mold,’ ” he said.

He thought that meant he was out. Instead, Johnson kept moving forward, articulating a vision for a charming, welcoming region on the upswing.

“Very few people leave here with a bad impression, and that’s why they keep coming back,” he said.

Johnson acknowledged he has a lot to learn from the existing CVB staff about the ins and outs of destination marketing, and the art of promoting a region.

“Cole sent me some emails yesterday,” he said. “One of them was 170 pages.”

But Carley – who spent 18 years at WDAY-TV himself in sales and advertising – said Johnson’s management skills and ability to communicate will serve him well.

“He’s smart, he’s articulate, and enthusiastic,” Carley said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in him.”

Johnson’s next step, according to Carley: “He’s got to get used to working without a script.”

Chris Regimbal, news director for WDAZ, said Johnson is sharp, funny, and a master story teller.

“He’s hip enough with our young staff that he’s always in on the joke,” Regimbal said. “That’s a pretty good measure of a guy who gets it.”

In a blog post Friday, Regimbal wrote: “Our loss is F-M’s gain.”

Johnson, who now splits his time between Grand Forks and his home in Moorhead, joked that his wife will have to get used to having him around the house more often. But his new job may put him on the road just as often: The CVB travels to about two dozen trade shows and a handful of other events across the nation each year.

The organization, which has a staff of 11 full-time employees and, also buys advertising, creates promotional materials for the region, and helps convince events and groups to come here. Its $1.4 million operating budget is funded by a tax on hotel rooms in Fargo and Moorhead.


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Grand Forks Herald staff writer Tu-Uyen Tran contributed to this story.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502

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