Jeffrey Vasser has resigned as president of the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority after more than a decade at the helm of the agency charged with increasing the resort's convention and entertainment business.
The Margate native, who was tapped to head the authority in 2002, has accepted a position as director general and CEO of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association in Miami, Fla. Vasser's decision comes six months after ACCVA was absorbed as a division of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority in a move mandated by 2011 state legislation.
Vasser retained his position as president of the division in that move, but said his decision to leave the city was not based on those changes. He will oversee a federation of 35 national hotel associations throughout the Caribbean in his new job.
"If all things had stayed the same, I still might be making the decision I made," Vasser said. "It's been very special to me to be from here and be able to work in Atlantic City. There are some different eyes on the city trying different things, and that's a good thing."
After more than two years of negotiations, the visitors authority was folded into CRDA in April. The consolidation was mandated by the same legislation that created the Atlantic City Tourism District. Aspects of that legislation diminished the role ACCVA plays in marketing the city. Instead, the newly created Atlantic City Alliance has taken the lead on much of the city's tourism publicity, while the division Vasser heads has remained responsible for driving convention business
A 1978 graduate of Atlantic City High School, Vasser has overseen approximately 60 employees and the daily operation of the authority's convention sales, marketing, media relations and tourism division.
Gov. Chris Christie initially talked of abolishing the visitors authority entirely. He was critical of the authority's spending on salaries and said another entity should be in charge of marketing the city.
In 2010, Vasser earned $185,890, landing him on a list of officials working at New Jersey authorities who made more money than the governor.
Who might replace Vasser, if anyone, remains unclear. CRDA spokeswoman Kim Butler did not respond to questions about whether the position would be filled and, if so, what the search process might entail.
Vasser said he wasn't sure what CRDA's intentions for the position might be but doubted the position would be filled quickly if at all. He referenced an ongoing review by CRDA of the ACCVA division's operations. Shortly after the merger, officials said CRDA Executive Director John Palmieri issued a transition report on the move. An Open Public Records Act request by The Press of Atlantic City for a copy of the report was denied.
"I don't know what they're going to do. There's still talk of restructuring everything. They're several months away from making any decisions," Vasser said.
Meanwhile, Vasser said the decision to take the position with the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association has some personal ties. While in graduate school at Columbia University, he spent time living in Venezuela. He met his wife in Cancun and has also been an international election monitor, Vasser said describing his affinity for the Caribbean.
Vasser has a bachelor's degree in casino management from Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration. He has a master's degree in public administration from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
Prior to joining the ACCVA, Vasser worked for Choice Hotels International, Laventhol & Horwath and Four Seasons Hotels. From 1998 to 2001, he served as chief financial officer of Cipriani International in New York City.
Vasser said his chief accomplishments include starting Atlantic City Restaurant Week six years ago and seeing Boardwalk Hall named one of the top grossing mid-sized arenas in the country.
"Jeff Vasser has served this destination well and accomplished many firsts for the Convention Center Division," Palmieri said in a written statement.
Vasser's last day with the ACCVA division is Oct. 18.
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