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The New Mexico Brewers Guild board has chosen native New Mexican and neurophysiologist Tess Vidalis to head its organization.
She’s the second woman to hold the position and succeeds Leah Black, who stepped down at the end of 2021 to focus on her consulting business.
The executive director has a hefty role whose responsibilities include organizing events, running social media channels, fundraising, networking, financial oversight, updating the website and lobbying for policies and legislation that benefit the brewing industry.
Vidalis said working in the high-pressure environment of an operating room, where it’s literally a matter of life or death, has prepared her well for the fast-paced and demanding position.
She’s also a lover of craft beer.
Vidalis stepped into the role of executive director three weeks ago amidst a flurry of activity as the guild prepares for its annual WinterBrew on Saturday, Jan. 22. It’s also the time of year for membership renewals and the legislative session has started.
Although Vidalis is coming directly from a career in the medical field it doesn’t mean she’s new to the brewery scene. Her life has kind of come full circle.
She spent six years as a young adult working at Chama River Brewing Co., one of the pioneers in the state’s craft brew industry. The brewery closed its doors in 2017, but many current brewers and brewery owners got their start there.
She also has experience with organizing large scale events and fundraisers. She volunteered with the symphony orchestra, Explora and an equine therapy group.
Her experience was one of the things that made her an attractive candidate for the position according to guild board member Ali Cattin. She said the guild wanted someone who was passionate about craft beer but also understands the non-profit world. The board, she said, received applications from several qualified candidates and deliberated for a long while before making a decision.
“At the end of the day, we wanted someone who knows how to navigate that world and deal with the financial end,” she said. “And someone who can raise money and be an advocate for the brewing industry.”
About three years ago, Vidalis began contemplating leaving health care and switching to a career in public or community outreach. She said this presented the perfect opportunity.
“I have a very unique background,” she said. “This job is a perfect fit for what I was looking for. I really like to talk to people and a lot of this job is about making connections. I feel very fortunate that the board of directors saw what I see in myself.”
Vidalis and her husband returned to New Mexico from New Orleans in September and now live in Santa Fe. They were living in New Orleans so her husband, a neurosurgeon, could finish his training. She said the two were anxious to return to the state and its great beer.
“There’s nothing like it,” she said. “I just love New Mexico.”