Preston resident Sarah Wangen settles into her new role as Preston's director of tourism. BRETTA GRABAU/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
Preston resident Sarah Wangen settles into her new role as Preston's director of tourism. BRETTA GRABAU/REPUBLICAN-LEADER
A few weeks ago, Preston Tourism director Kathy Dahl prepared to pass the baton for her position with the city of Preston to a new director.

After accepting applications for the position, the city council approved hiring Sarah Wangen to take up the position.

Wangen grew up in Preston and knows many residents of the city because of it. She graduated from Fillmore Central in 2006, continuing on to the Minnesota School of Business in Rochester for a sales and marketing management degree. While going to school, she was employed at a hotel for three years as the director of sales there.

Realizing her love for her hometown after her college experience, Wangen returned to Preston three years ago to work with advertising and sales in Preston and other area towns. Becoming more deeply involved in the community, she has been the president of the Preston Chamber of Commerce for the past two years, helping to plan and organize many events hosted in Preston.

"I have been involved with things like the golf tournaments, Family Fun Nights and Preston Pride Clean-up Day as the president of the chamber," she commented.

Though the tourism director and the Chamber of Commerce work together to promote the Preston area, they are two separate entities.

"Think of Preston in a bubble. The chamber works on events within that bubble to bring more to the community. The tourism director works on the outside with organizations to attract people to see what's inside the bubble," Wangen said. "They are separate, but we need both of them for it to work for the community."

In addition, the financial aspect of both organizations is also vastly different. In her new job, she is employed by the city. However, the chamber is funded in an opposite method.

"The chamber is more of a 'business club' and our members are what make it run. Our budget is comprised of money from fundraisers we put on and all that money is put back into the community for things like the new playground by the swimming pool," Wangen noted.

The position of tourism director holds a great deal of promise for Wangen.

"I love working with people and I love the idea that I can help promote the Preston area," she expressed.

Since part of the job will be to work on promoting the bike trails, Preston being the Trout Capital and the home of the incoming veteran's cemetery, it fits right into her niche and background.

"I am really excited and couldn't wait to start," she admitted. "It has been a very welcoming and relaxing experience. It is very exciting to go and learn more things the will continue to help the area," she stated.

Wangen began her new job on Tuesday, June 3, and has been out introducing herself to businesses and area residents. Along with this, she hopes to keep communication with the community members and organizations like Minnesota Explore open.

"I am already on the Trail Towns committee and have been on the Trout Center board since the beginning of the year. I am also setting up meetings with key people in the community to keep that communication open," she commented.

"I am also looking forward to meeting all of the volunteers. We really appreciate them and I have spoken to a few on the phone, but I am hoping to meet with them over this next week," she continued.

A few other goals of hers are to continue bringing the local areas together and to make Preston a destination that people will want to stay in longer. She also wants tourists to want to come back to visit for more than just one day.

"I want to help draw more visitors to the area and give them a positive experience here and work with the community to expand its hospitable spirit even more than it already is to welcome others to the area," Wangen said.

As she settles into the position, she also shoulders many other responsibilities. As the job is only part-time, she will continue to work in advertising and sales. But rather than handling several towns under her umbrella, she will be trimming it down to only the Preston area.

"Because it is only a part-time job, I can't afford to make it my only job. But if it grows and becomes more than what it is already, I would love to make it my only job," she related.

In addition, Wangen and her husband, Nick, are raising three, very active children.

"Kaylaigh is 6 and a half, Treyton is 5 and Kreedon is 10 months. They are very active at Fillmore Central in dance, the Girl Scouts, swimming lessons and whatever else I can put them in," she explained.

Because of her fondness of the Preston community, Wangen looks forward to serving in this new capacity as tourism director and enhancing the life of the residents here.

"I love to work here in Preston, working with the local businesses, knowing the people living here and seeing the community expand. I want to continue making this an even better place to raise my kids," Wangen concluded.