O.C. fairgrounds hires new CEO

The Orange County Fair Board on Friday announced a new chief executive for the fairgrounds property in Costa Mesa.

Kathy Kramer, who comes to Orange County from Canada, will take over the top leadership position at the 150-acre state property beginning Jan. 5.

Kramer is vice president of business operations for Northlands, a 160-acre, nonprofit entertainment and business venue in Edmonton, Alberta. She's held that position since January 2012, according to her LinkedIn profile.

"I am thrilled to be joining the OC Fair & Event Center team," Kramer said in a prepared statement. "I look forward to collaborating with staff, stakeholders and the board to drive innovation and build upon the long history and vitality of the organization. It's exciting to be part of an organization that has so many possibilities ahead."

Kramer replaces interim CEO Doug Lofstrom, who came out of retirement in April 2013 to take over for outgoing interim CEO Jerome Hoban.

Lofstrom will stay to assist with the transition, fair officials said in a news release.

Kramer was chosen by the board after a five-month, nationwide search. In addition to her role with Northlands, she has worked as deputy director of the Phoenix Convention Center & Venues; vice president of convention sales and marketing for the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.; Midwest regional director of sales and marketing for Six Continents Hotels and Resorts; and director of sales and marketing for Harrah's Casino and Hotel.

Kramer is a certified facility executive from the International Assn. of Venue Managers and a certified meeting professional.

Kramer's annual compensation will be $150,796.80, plus a car allowance.

"We are excited to have Ms. Kramer bring her experience, talents and enthusiasm to the OC Fair & Event Center," said board Chairwoman Ashleigh Aitken. "I am confident that under her leadership the organization will continue to grow and provide high-quality events for the community and first-rate family fun for years to come."

Kramer comes to Costa Mesa on the tail end of a tumultuous period in the fairgrounds' history that saw a series of short-lived CEOs flow through the operation.

Hoban, who left for another fairgrounds job in Northern California, had the CEO job for about a year, though he had worked at the fairgrounds for more than two decades.

Hoban replaced Steve Beazley, another longtime OC Fair employee who worked his way to the top position. Beazley was at the helm from 2008 to 2012, a period that included the contentious attempt by the state to sell the fairgrounds property.

The effort, begun in 2009 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to help boost state coffers, fizzled out by 2011 under Gov. Jerry Brown.

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