Wesley Murack started his new job as Pendleton Downtown Association executive director on Wednesday and was immediately thrust into action.
The association’s annual Pendleton Holiday Stroll was Friday, and as volunteers in elf costumes gathered for the Christmas tree lighting in front of Hamely’s and passersby grabbed hot chocolate and cookies at one of the stations on Main Street, Murack manned the association’s 380 S. Main St. office.
Murack admits it has been a little overwhelming over the past few days, especially since his position has been vacant since his predecessor resigned in September.
After the holiday stroll ends, he’ll help coordinate the Holiday Hangover pub crawl in January and prepare to attend the Main Street Now Conference in Seattle in March.
But despite the short-term stress, he already has long-term ambitions for the association, which include hosting an Oregon Main Street Conference in Pendleton.
Murack, 29, said it can be difficult to get Main Street officials to make the hours-long drive to the east side of the state, but he came from much further to end up with the job.
He said his hometown — Wylie, Texas — reminds him of Pendleton, although a period of explosive growth meant it was significantly bigger than Pendleton by the time he graduated high school.
He obtained both his bachelor’s degree in anthropology and a master’s degree in international sustainable tourism from the University of North Texas.
“I’ve always been interested in people,” he said, explaining his choice in majors.
His master’s program took him to Costa Rica, where he helped rural communities develop their tourism industry, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where he interned at its tourism department.
He came back home to Texas after getting his master’s degree, doing strategic planning for breweries in the Dallas area.
Murack thought he would do something similar when he moved to Pendleton in May after his wife got a job as a physical therapist at St. Anthony Hospital. He eventually landed at Oregon Grain Growers Brand Distillery, where he helped owner Rodney Bullington do some inventory work.
When the director position at the downtown association opened up, he saw it as a good fit for his background.
Now that he’s gotten the job, he’s eager to build relationships with downtown businesses, whether they’re brand new or established.
And maybe he’ll also spend some time convincing certain out-of-town Main Street development officials that a statewide conference in Pendleton is worth their time.
“I just want to show them that there’s more to Pendleton than the Round-Up,” he said.