GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival has chosen its new executive director.
Tracy Riley, a retired commander with the U.S. Coast Guard, will step into the role immediately, marketing director Annie Lengkeek announced Wednesday. Organizers say the interview process spanned three months.
“Very exciting and a little overwhelming at points. But just super exciting, I mean thrilled to have this opportunity and just blessed to be in Grand Haven and be doing this job,” Riley said. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Riley was group commander in Grand Haven for two years, from 2004 to 2006. In 2010, she retired from the Coast Guard, according to Lengkeek.
The former executive director, Mike Smith, served that role for 17 years before his death in April. Riley said she knows how difficult it will be to replace him but is ready for the challenge.
“It is big shoes to fill for sure. There’s only one Mike Smith. People ask me about filling his shoes and I can’t do that. I could never do that. Mike was a very special individual to us and we miss him,” she said. “I think his vision for this upcoming festival, the 100th, was to continue to showcase our Coast Guard, showcase our city and to thank this community that’s been doing this for the Coast Guard for 100 years. My plan going forward is to take the festival in that direction for its 100th.”
Since moving to Grand Haven in 2018, festival organizers say Riley has been an active member of the board, even serving as the festival’s chair in 2023.
Next year’s Coast Guard Festival will mark the festival’s 100th anniversary. It is set to run July 26 through Aug. 4, 2024.