As 2022 Rose Festival approaches, Curtis said he wants to pursue new career challenges

COURTESY PHOTO: ROSE FESTIVAL - CURTISJeff Curtis, who has been with the Portland Rose Festival for 25 years, will be stepping down as chief executive officer in October.

Curtis, 49, wants to pursue other career challenges.

"I feel great about my tenure and the organization, and the timing was good to make the move," he said. "It's a personal decision that blends my personal desire, ambition and abilities. It feels right to do something different. I'll go on a journey to find out what it is."

He'll not pursue another contract with the Rose Festival. Curtis said it was not a financial decision, meaning a cut in the Rose Festival budget, for his choice to leave the organization.

"This is all Jeff," Curtis said. "It's a good time for my family and me to look for a new challenge. (Being with Rose Festival) is something I'll carry with me for the rest of my life."

He added: "The financial part, the journey we went through (cutting budget during pandemic), it was stressful and difficult. With the decisions we made, the Rose Festival is healthy right now. We didn't use line of credit and didn't use reserves. The organization has come through challenging times."

A Spokane, Washington native who attended University of Pacific in Stockton, Calif., Curtis began his career working in minor-league baseball and then worked in sales for the Seattle Mariners in 1996 and '97.

He began his festival tenure as a sales manager before being promoted to CEO at the age of 31.

"I've learned a lot, I've learned the power of relationships. They are the most important thing to success, especially with the Rose Festival being a people organization," he said. "Coming in at 31, I was very young but confident that I could do the job, but I had to learn to do the job."

Curtis credited Marilyn Clint, chief operating officer, for her guidance as he grew into the job.

The announcement comes as the Rose Festival prepares for its festival, which starts May 26, after two years of limited events — including no street parades — because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Said Curtis, who's married with three daughters: "The Rose Festival has given me the opportunity to gain a wealth of insight into the shared challenges and rewards of the events profession. With the tremendous board leadership and talented staff — plus strong support from our partners, sponsors, and the City of Portland — I feel very comfortable knowing that I will be leaving the Rose Festival in capable hands."

He's a former chair of the International Festivals & Events Association, a trade organization for the world's great events.

Curtis notified the Rose Festival Foundation board of directors of his decision Thursday night.

"As the Rose Festival's CEO for the past 18 years, Jeff has seen the festival through many challenges, from a struggling economy to a world pandemic," said Dave Todd, foundation president. "Under his leadership, the Festival transitioned to a 501(c)3 nonprofit, and was named the Official Festival of the City of Portland. We are extremely proud of Jeff's service to the festival and wish him the very best as he moves on with his life pursuits."

Curtis said he wanted to be transparent with the organization, hence the six-month advance notice of his departure.

He and Clint and others have work to do as the Rose Festival approaches.

"I've done no job searching," he said.

"I have a lot of professional work ahead of me (as a career). I'll begin to evaluate what's next for me. When I do walk out of the office, I'll have a few months off and then go from there."

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