The New Sheriff

The well-dressed cowboy, ’80s style.

There’s a scene in “48 Hours,” the Eddie Murphy/Nick Nolte buddy movie from 1982, where Murphy – playing a convict temporarily released to help Nolte’s police detective solve a crime – finds himself in a cowboy bar surrounded by some less-than-socially-enlightened rednecks. Trying to establish some tough-guy cred, he first rousts a few of them, then appropriates a cowboy hat, pulls it down on his head and drawls out: “I want you boys to know something: There’s a new sheriff in town.”

Great scene. But not exactly my style.

You see, here’s the situation: I’m coming in as BRNW’s Executive Director following Sanna Phinney’s retirement. And two things to know right off. First, those are some big shoes to fill; Sanna is a force of nature, and she’s done a remarkable job. Second, and related to the first, is… it ain’t broke.

Oh, I’ll take really good care of it…

My experience as an ED is starting up brand-new events – Cycle Greater Yellowstone and Cycle Adirondacks. I’ve never come in to lead an event that’s already, well, even in existence, and going strong. I built each of those tours from merely an idea into a full-fledged event. But now the BRNW board has handed me the keys to a polished, tuned and gas-tank-full vehicle, effectively saying like a good parent, “You better take good care of it.”

So this is new territory for me. And in this context, there are two distinct directions a person can go: new sheriff, or caretaker. Change a bunch of things to let everyone know who’s in charge now, or just do what’s always been done. Announce your presence with authority, or quietly become a “game manager.” Make it about you, or try not to be noticed.

I’m aiming for something in between – but a lot closer to “caretaker.”

Some people who know that I started in the bike-tour world working for Cycle Oregon have expressed concern that I’ll want to make our rides just like their big one. Let me be unequivocal: Not going to happen. I admire what they do; they’re one of the very best tours in the country. But people choose BRNW rides in order to have a particular experience. Sure, we have a lot of the same infrastructure and amenities as CO and other larger tours. But there’s something distinctly different about 300 people versus 2,000 – and that’s what we offer, take pride in, and will continue doing. I hope both organizations thrive.

So, back to that “it ain’t broke” part. There are so many elements of BRNW’s event planning and execution that have been refined to smoothness that it would be plain stupid to change them. The organization has had 31 years to figure things out, and some of the systems and methods that have been developed are downright genius, in my observation.

But does that mean there’s nothing to change or improve upon? Of course not.

I’m a big fan of rider surveys, and I dug into every single rating and comment we received for our 2017 rides. There are lots of good and even great ideas that can be gleaned – our riders are awfully damn smart – and we’ve already started implementing some of them. That’s how BRNW has gotten to this point of success: looking for ways every year to do a few things better. So you’ll always see a few things change, be added, or even be subtracted.

Just to be clear: Not me.

And it’s not like I don’t have any ideas. There are some changes I’ll implement, and I sincerely hope they’re improvements (wait ‘til you see our new website!). But nothing radical or fundamental.

I feel like I’ve married into the BRNW Family – and I’m certainly not going to get drunk at the wedding and do something stupid.