Change is coming to Visit Napa Valley.

Clay Gregory, longtime president and CEO, will step down next year as president but retain his position as CEO, according to a Nov. 21 statement from the destination-marketing organization for Napa County.

In the fiscal 2017–2019 long-range plan presented to the board of directors in June 2016, Gregory included the need to create a succession plan for leadership, according to the statement.

"As a small organization, Clay Gregory and the VNV Board of Directors felt it is important to have a leadership succession plan in place," said Don Shindle, board chairman and general manager of The Westin Verasa in Napa, in an email Monday. Gregory called for a succession plan in the fiscal 2017–2019 plan, presented to the board in mid-2016.

Shindle noted Gregory's accomplishments with the organization include championing the tourism improvement district funding structure in 2009 and helping subsequent growth of sales and marketing activities to strategically promote the valley to visitors.

The search for a new president got underway this past June.

“Several very qualified candidates have been presented and a decision is expected to be made before the end of the year, and announced in early 2019,” according to the Visit Napa Valley statement.

Gregory, who will mark 10 years with Visit Napa Valley in June 2019, will guide and mentor the person selected for the position, the organization said. Bifurcation of the duties between the roles will be further delineated after a candidate is selected, the group said Monday.

Gregory’s extensive career in Napa Valley began in 1989, when he joined Robert Mondavi Winery, where he served for 14 years as general manager. He went on to work for more than five years as president at Jackson Family Wines before joining Visit Napa Valley in July 2009.

According to its website, Visit Napa Valley’s mission is to promote, protect and enhance Napa Valley’s position as America’s premier wine, food, arts and wellness destination.