The Kentucky State Fair Board unanimously approved a Las Vegas executive to replace outgoing CEO and president Harold Workman.
After meeting with two finalists this morning, a search committee recommended Clifford “Rip” Rippetoe to replace Workman, who has led the fair board since 1993.
“I think he was aware of the challenges. I think he had done his homework. I think he had done his research. I think he knows what our strengths are, what our opportunities are, but also understands the financial challenges that we’re dealing with,” said board chair Ron Carmicle.
The fair board recently lost management of the KFC Yum Center and it projects a $5.4 million deficit in the 2013 fiscal year’s budget. It has also been unable to find an operator for the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park site, failing in a second round of negotiations earlier this year.
Despite all that, said Carmicle, Rippetoe will have to live up to Workman’s successes.
“I think his first challenge is going to be to try to step in those shoes and try to fill those shoes and try to help us decide what our directions going to be. And the Kingdom is only one part of that,” he said.
Rippetoe had leadership experience including oversight of Las Vegas conventions and was on the Salt Lake City Olympics organizing committee, said Carmicle.
Further, he showed a “real desire to be in Kentucky,” said Tom Schifano who led the search committee which made recommendations to the full board.
Rippetoe grew up on a farm in Oklahoma, according to Schifano. According to his online resume he received a degree in theater and speech from Oklahoma State University.
“The talent around this place that Harold Workman has developed over the years, there’s a lot of people around here that know a lot about agriculture. I think we needed to find a talented business person,” said Schifano.
Rippetoe will likely start the first of the year, when Workman’s contract expires, said Carmicle. He will be paid around $250,000 with benefits, similar to Workman’s current pay.