George Sharp, executive director of Visitor & Convention Bureau, resigns

In a surprise announcement, George Sharp, who had raised the profile of the Olympia Lacey Tumwater Visitor & Convention Bureau after the previous executive director was fired, resigned Thursday from the organization he led for more than four years.

Sharp said he plans to start two new businesses, both of which will be family-run. The first is called Sharp Strategies and Solutions LLC, while the details on the second business are still coming together.

Sharp said he has been thinking about his new ventures for some time, but was stirred to action after the death of two industry friends and his daughter’s graduation and marriage.

“Life is really short,” he said Thursday. “I want to create a legacy and make a difference in people’s lives.”

He said there was no conflict between him and the bureau’s board. “You couldn’t ask for a better board of directors,” Sharp said.

He added that he is writing four books. The first, “Sharpisms,” a collection of his daily thoughts that he often shared on Facebook, is set to be published June 4.

Sharp, 52, was hired in November 2010 after working at the state Department of Commerce for 11 years. He replaced interim executive director John Blankenship, after former director Mike Dexter was fired in July of that year.

Dexter had held that title for nearly three years.

Sharp was brimming with ideas when he started and began to carry them out almost immediately. His most significant contribution was probably the implementation of the Tourism Promotion Area, persuading hoteliers to charge guests a $2 per-room, per-night assessment. That increased the bureau’s budget to more than $1 million from $300,000 when he started. The money is used to promote the area.

Sharp also developed the Tumwater Artesian Brewfest and assisted in creating the Thurston Bountiful Byway, a countywide tourism effort.

VCB board president Patrick Knutson could not be reached Thursday, but in a statement he said Sharp was instrumental in the growth of the bureau and worked hard to enhance the county and its cities as a tourism destination.

“I’m excited for your new adventure, but we will miss you at the VCB,” Knutson added on Sharp’s Facebook page.