Napa Valley's new tourism chief wants region on millennials' bucket list
If you didn’t know better, Linsey Gallagher could be an unassuming mom in your neighborhood coffee klatch.
Gallagher is that person but is also the recently appointed president and CEO of Visit Napa Valley, the county’s tourism bureau.
Less than a year ago, the finance and marketing veteran was 10 years into her role as director of international marketing at the Wine Institute, a wine industry advocacy group in San Francisco. She traveled the world, championing California wines to about 25 countries and managing a global team that included about 15 international offices.
Under Gallagher’s tenure, California wine exports grew from $800 million to $1.6 billion, amounting to 70% growth over that 10 year period.
By her own account, the work was rewarding, but after a decade, she began to think about making a change — to what exactly, she didn’t yet know.
“I was just sort of trying to navigate where to go from here and how to have a little less international travel in the mix,” Gallagher said. “I had little kids and I was gone for long chunks of time.”
But when you travel the world and make friends everywhere you go, your name is bound to pop up on the radar of industry recruiters. And that’s what happened for Gallagher when she got a phone call in November to gauge her interest in interviewing for an executive role at Visit Napa Valley, the agency with a $7.7 million budget for the next fiscal year and tasked with stoking the area’s tourism industry with visitors.
“Clay (Gregory) had been in the job for 10 years,” said Gallagher, who with husband, Lon, bought a home in Napa in 2012. “And I thought, this is not going to come around again for 10 years, and it’s kind of perfect for me.” Gallagher and Gregory already had an established working relationship from her time at the Wine Institute.
Taking a new role
By the end of 2018, after many years of international travel, commuting to San Francisco and yearning for more quality time with her family, Gallagher hit the “work-life balance” jackpot.
On Feb. 4, she officially stepped into her new role as president of Visit Napa Valley. Gregory subsequently retired in May, at which time Gallagher added CEO to her title. Prior to her hiring, Gregory had served for 10 years as both president and CEO of the tourism agency.
Even before her time at the Wine Institute, Gallagher’s resume made a strong case for winning the job at Visit Napa Valley.
She grew up in a small town in Vermont, the eldest of three children in a family that owned a commercial real estate business. By her own account, she has always been business-minded.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in business administration with a focus on finance and international management from the University of Vermont, Gallagher moved to New York City for a 2-year financial-management program at G.E. Capital, which owned NBC.
“When I was finishing up at my training program at NBC, most of my friends were going on to the NBC audit staff, and that was a very aspirational thing to do among my finance friends,” she explained. “And I said, ‘I’m going to take this Today Show job.’ I’m very glad that I did.”