New CVB director ready to help Little Falls area grow

Kristina VonBerge comes with the experience needed to get the job done

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
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Kristina VonBerge

After 22 1/2 years in the Army with a rank of captain, and only a five-month reprieve from her job at Camp Ripley, Kristina VonBerge is ready to start a new chapter in her life.

That military training, with the work ethic and organization required, may come in handy as she takes over the helm as executive director of the Little Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

She will fill the position vacated by Cathy VanRisseghem, who left the position she held for more than 20 years, to focus on her duties as mayor of Little Falls.

VonBerge started her duties April 2, and said VanRisseghem has been working with her to show her where things are and when things need to be initiated.

VanRisseghem was organized, said VonBerge. That will be a huge help, she said.

But VonBerge will bring with her a skill set that uniquely qualifies her for the position. Not just the organization and detail-oriented practices of the military, but, VanRisseghem said, “She knows a lot of people.”

Her job in the military has included being an air traffic controller, a recruiter and her job at Camp Ripley for the past several years was in marketing and tourism for the military base, before being deployed to Iraq.

In fact, while in the marketing and tourism role, VonBerge served for seven years on the Little Falls Convention and Visitors Board of Directors.

“That gives her a unique perspective on what the Board wants,” said CVB Board member Marnita VanHoecke, who was a member of the committee that conducted the interviews for the position.

“Anytime you are on a board of directors, you see a different viewpoint than other people in the organization,” she said.

“I think Kristina has a very unique insight,” said VanHoecke. “She helped market Camp Ripley and did a great job. I think she will do the same outstanding job with the CVB as well.”

VanRisseghem did not have any input into the nine-member Board’s decision, because she asked not to be involved.

“I felt that they should select their own person. And I wanted them to not feel intimated by what I thought,” said VanRisseghem. “They don’t want another ‘Cathy’ — they want someone out there with new ideas and come in with lots of energy who will work for the betterment of Little Falls.”

VanRisseghem is none-the-less pleased with the Board’s choice. “Kristina was a huge asset on the Board of Directors for the CVB several years ago,” she said.

Some of the events VonBerge has helped with in the past include the Dam Festival in Little Falls; TRAM and “Many other things we’ve done,” said VanRisseghem.

“She’s got lots and lots of energy and she’s not afraid to try something new; to spread her wings and venture out,” said VanRisseghem. “To me, they made a wonderful choice.”

VonBerge, her husband Mark and their three daughters, Alexis, 8, Brooklyn 5, and Samantha, 3, live in Fort Ripley. “I’m not going anywhere,” said VonBerge, who has planted firm roots with her family.

Involved with her daughters in activities at school and at St. Francis, she’s enjoying being a mom, and for the five months, enjoyed being home.

But VonBerge said she knew she could do more. She always has felt that. After obtaining a degree in criminal justice, VonBerge continued her education gaining a degree in sales and marketing.

She’ll use that degree to help Little Falls — an area VonBerge has come to love in the 17 years she’s been here — grow, she said.

And when the community grows and flourishes, so do the people, she said.

The flexible hours that may come with the job don’t phase VonBerge, at all. Used to being on duty evenings and weekends when needed in the military, she’ll do the same working events and trade shows.

Plans for the future include utilizing social media and technology to give people more options to access information about Little Falls and the area.

VonBerge was delighted to find the CVB had an iPod walking tour of the area, including historic sites and churches, with a detailed history of each. “It’s free, people just come in and show us their ID,” she said.

For now, she will continue to familiarize herself with her office. And soon, she’ll begin work on the 2013 Visitor Directory and whatever else comes her way.

Helping her will be the CVB Board made up of VanHoecke, Mavis Buker, Joyce Kamrowski, Dan Smith, Charles Pautler, Sara Posterick, Jan Nelson and Jodi Weaver.

VanRisseghem said she will stick around as much as she is needed.

“Whatever she is going to need, I’m just going to be there until they don’t need me anymore,” said VanRisseghem.

At the very least, she’ll be around to show VonBerge the tricks required to turn on the sprinkling system and the Christmas lights.

To meet the new Little Falls CVB executive director, stop by the office, the historic Rosenmeier House with its coat of green paint, at 606 S.E. First St., or call for a visit at (320) 616-4959.