Visitor centers director retires after 25 years
Annmarie Rogers, visitor centers director, rarely takes a day off. She keeps the center open all but three days of the year, but she’ll soon learn to enjoy time off.
“I’m supposed to work 40 hours, but I work way more,” she said. “We’re only closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day.”
Wednesday will be her last day as director. She plans on volunteering a lot during retirement, but she needs time to visit her mom in Sweden for a few weeks.
“In retirement, I hope she gets to enjoy time with family and loved ones and that she continues to have the joy she’s spread to so many people,” said Stephanie Armstrong, chief marketing officer of the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce.
Ms. Rogers is known for her smile and welcoming personality. TripAdvisor reviewers mention enjoying talking to the woman from Finland. (She was born in the U.S. but lived in Sweden; people must mistake her accent as Finnish.)
“I feel like the visitor centers and Annmarie Rogers are synonymous here,” Ms. Armstrong said. “You can’t have one without the other. She always makes it really welcoming for whoever wants to be engaged to get involved.
“She’s one of the most welcoming people in the world. I hope that can be continued on in the same way she’s done it for years.”
Ms. Rogers has even helped plan 50th anniversary parties and weddings when brides from out of state call needing advice.
“She makes people feel at home in another city,” Ms. Armstrong said.
Ms. Rogers loves Santa Barbara and it’s changed a lot during her time here. She said when she started, there was only one winery: Santa Barbara Winery. Now, wine is a big attraction for the visitors she sees everyday.
The main attractions stay the same: Stearns Wharf, the courthouse, the Santa Barbara Mission and the beach. But she notices small changes all the time.
Just last year, the Chamber of Commerce opened a visitor center on State Street. She then had to split attention between two locations, as well as an information center at the airport.
Ms. Rogers often connects with colleagues through email. She loves them and said she tries to send an email update every day.
“Her emails are upbeat, and she’s always very complimentary,” Ms. Armstrong said. When she first started working at the chamber, she noticed Ms. Roger’s vibrant energy and positive, information-filled emails.
“She’s also really great with our partners. Her enjoyment here in the community is part of why she’s so great at running it,” Ms. Armstrong said. “She wants everyone to enjoy the city the way she enjoys it.”
A February 2016 review on TripAdvisor said: “It can get pretty crowded inside (take a big breath of that lovely sea air while you’re waiting), but the staff (especially Annmarie) really want to devote whatever time you need to make sure you enjoy lovely Santa Barbara.”
Ms. Rogers said she loves going to work everyday and greeting people from all over the world. And she enjoys working with what the staff calls the “visitor center family.”
“Annmarie is very much like family and treats everyone as family as well,” Ms. Armstrong said. “We’re just grateful for her and will miss having her in her role, though she’ll still be in the community.”
One of her favorite parts of her job is setting up a booth when cruise ships come into port. When cruises come through, she wants to volunteer and set up her table again.