Karen Ferguson – Chairman
Having recently retired from twenty plus years as a financial advisor/planner, folks felt my experience would serve this board. My home is Eatons’ Ranch where my husband, Bill, and I have lived and raised our two children, Will and Amanda. Working at the ranch for the time before my financial career broadened my experience. DRA involvement over the years has given me great insight and more wonderful friends. Our family continues our participation in multiple ways and now the next generation, my grandson, Holden, joins us. That makes 5 generations working with fellow dude ranchers.
Rita Cote – President
When I started at Tanque Verde about 19 years ago, I felt I had found my calling. I left the corporate world behind (7 years with Marriott) and found the world of Dude Ranching. Along the way Bob and I fell in love and married. What pleasure and joy I have found over the years with running the ranch, helping raise Bob’s four children and experiencing wonderful memories with our employees and guests. I am blessed.
David Van Berkum – Vice-President
I am from Iowa but I have been involved with dude ranches since 1988, when I was fortunate enough to get hired on at the 63 Ranch. After five tremendous years there, and the dude ranch bug firmly planted, my family bought the Rainbow Trout Ranch in southern Colorado. I am very blessed to be able to work with my parents, Doug and Linda. I am married to a very shy woman, Jane, and we have three great children: Mary-Anne is 12, Caroline is 10 and Derek (aka Snuff) is 8. I look forward to representing the DRA as a delegate from CO. Jane and I are also the representatives for the DRA-AQHA Alliance. We raise and train our own quarter horses and we love to team rope.
Jerry Helmicki – Treasurer
After climbing the corporate ladder and having a successful career in the business world, at age forty three I was burned up. It was definitely time for a change and time to look for a more satisfying and rewarding lifestyle. I was always interested and fascinated with the west, and after visiting several dude ranches both Cheri and I decided that the multi-dimensional aspects of “dude ranching” offered the lifestyle and environment we both wanted and were looking for. In 1995, we purchased the Bar Lazy J Guest Ranch in Colorado. That year required giving up a successful career, selling all our worldly possessions, cashing in all our retirement investments and leaving the area I was born and raised in. While we had no background in ranching, we were able to apply our previous skills and experiences to build up our dude ranch operation. Twenty some years later I can honestly say I never looked back nor had an ounce of regret. I consider it an honor and privilege to serve on this board and to participate in supporting and promoting the business of “dude ranching.”
Doug Hare – Board Member
I started my ranching career early on as a young guest at Elkhorn, MT. A number of years and many summer seasons later I started working for Elkhorn Ranch after graduating from Knox College, Galesburg, IL. Like most out of college, my career path was not set, the winter months were filled with cooking at Lone Mountain Ranch in MT. This led to another direction; I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York and returned to Montana to work in the culinary field. I returned to Lone Mountain Ranch and was the Food and Beverage Director. After that I opened up my own restaurant in Manhattan, MT. This was a great eye opener for me to realize that the hospitality industry was fantastic, but I was missing something. The return to dude ranching came with the opportunity to work at the Red Rock Ranch as the manager for the MacKenzie family owned ranch. Here with my wonderful wife Addie and our two children Ellory and Paedon we have found our “home,” we are a part of the Red Rock Ranch family and a dedicated part of the larger family of dude ranchers.
Dan Schneider – Board Member
Dan Schneider has been President/CEO of The Schneider Group, Inc. in Tucson, Arizona, since 1982. He has also been very active in developing many industry programs. The single largest specialization is an insurance program for medical device product liability insurance. He also has worked with many dude ranches in their risk management, property/casualty insurance solutions and the creation and administration of waivers/assumption of risk forms. He has extensive experience in insurance production management and marketing management.
He has attended several insurance company schools including Fireman’s Fund, Hartford and Federated as well as continuing education classes in Agency Management, Sales Management and Commercial Property & Casualty Insurance.
Dan also played professional baseball from 1962 to 1971. He started with the Milwaukee Braves. He played with the Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals.
He has been Chairman of the Arizona Baseball Commission, President of the Southern Arizona Sports Development, League President, Little League Baseball and Tucson Commissioner, Big League Baseball
Bob Foster – Board Member
Bob was raised in Colorado Springs, CO and graduated from Wheaton College, IL. He taught and coached in a Chicago high school before serving five years as a Captain in the US Army. He then completed a master’s program at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. From the mid 1970’s to December 2011 he was President and CEO of Lost Valley Ranch, Sedalia, CO, a AAA “4-diamond” horse/cattle guest ranch
Bob is active in the hospitality and ranching industries. He is currently serving on the board of Visit Big Sky and the Educational Trust of the Dude Rancher’s Association. He is past Chairman of the Colorado Travel and Tourism Authority, past Chairman of the Colorado Dude and Guest Ranch Association, The Dude Rancher’s Association and the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association and served on the board of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
Bob and his wife, Karen have two adult children and live in Big Sky, Montana.
Carolyn Stimmel – Board Member
I have been involved in Dude Ranching for nearly fifty years; as a guest, employee, and as of recently an owner of the Red Rock Ranch in Kelly, Wyoming.
Remembering my families amazing stay at the Elbow Ranch as a child was like nothing I had experienced thus far in life. Little did I realize at that time how this first western experience would lead to many memories full of life’s lessons; connecting with horses, hospitality and family.
From being a guest to growing up and witnessing my family’s desire to develop Red Rock Ranch into a premier guest ranch has been a journey full of blessings, rich memories for myself, husband, Harley and our sons.
Connecting with people, and owning a property in the west was a driving force for David and Deborah MacKenzie in 1974 to own a ranch. My first employment opportunity arose at thirteen years of age when Ken Neal needed a Camp Cook. From pack-trips to wrangling, haying, guiding, irrigating and many other various ranch duties have provided me, with employment endeavors over the years. Harley and I have thoroughly enjoyed raising our four boys, at Red Rock which has given them ample character building opportunities.
Joining the D.R.A. Foundation and working towards solutions and partaking in an industry that is near and dear to my heart is an honor and a privilege.
Amanda Ferguson Esch – Board Member
Phone: 307- 634-3210
Amanda Ferguson Esch comes from a long tradition of dude ranching, having been raised on the historic Eatons’ Ranch in Wolf, Wyoming. She is a passionate supporter of the dude ranching industry, and was a proud recipient of the Dude Rancher’s Educational Trust Scholarship. After living and working on the Ranch for many years, she currently lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming with her husband Luke and son Holden. She and her family try to make it back to the Ranch as often as possible. Amanda is a partner in the law firm of Davis & Cannon, LLP. She practices in the areas of general civil litigation, employment law, and natural resources, and deals with many other areas relevant to the dude ranching and recreational industry. She is excited to serve as the newest member of the Dude Rancher’s Educational Trust Board, and is committed to supporting and preserving the dude ranching industry.
Colleen Hodson – Authorized Agent
I am the Executive Director of The Dude Ranchers’ Association along with being the Authorized Agent of The Dude Ranchers’ Educational Trust. I have worked for the association for over 10 years. I love the dude ranch industry and feel it is extremely important to protect and preserve its heritage. If you have any questions please, do not hesitate to contact me.