After 35 years leading tourism group, Goplin stepping down

Cindy Ham to take over new role

Though Goplin will still be a part of the Dakota Buttes Visitors Council, he has stepped down as chairperson after 35 years. (Record Photo by Cole Benz)

By COLE BENZ | Record Editor

Jim Goplin has stepped down as chairperson of the Dakota Buttes Visitors Council, lending way to new chairperson, Cindy Ham.

Goplin has been at the helm of the group since its inception 35 years ago. Jim Fuglie—North Dakota Tourism Director from 1985-1992—worked closely with the group early on said Hettinger wouldn’t be what it is today with out the help of Goplin and the Dakota Buttes Visitors Council.

“I can tell you Jim Goplin was a big part of that,” he said. “Jim has been a big part of this for a long time…Hettinger would be different if it weren’t Jim Goplin and the Dakota Buttes Visitors Council.”

Fuglie said that when he took over the tourism department with the state, he gathered his staff and formulated a plan to expand tourism to the smaller areas of North Dakota.

“My staff and I, during one of our planning sessions, said we should try to get more visitors out to the small towns and the rural areas of North Dakota,” he said.

Before, the tourism department focused on Medora, the Peace Gardens, the national park and Bismarck and Fargo.

“We weren’t doing much for the small towns and the rural areas,” he said.

But Fuglie helped turn that mentality around.

What Fuglie and his group did was contact the counties and wanted them to identify what each of them had for tourism, and Hettinger was one of the first places he started with, because he knew people in the community. Shortly after, they comment identified their niche, the last great buffalo hunt.

“Hettinger jumped right not that, [said] we’ve got the last great buffalo hunt, we should promote that, and I think they started doing that right away,” Fuglie said.

And even today, the community is still growing the attraction.

Fuglie said the group will be in good hands with the next chairperson.

“I think the groundwork has been laid,” he said. “I know [Goplin] loves Hettinger, he stayed there and worked to make that community better.”

Fuglie also cited the fact that Hettinger has a full-time economic director is a big asset for the community.

Goplin said he has enjoyed his time on the council, and is ready for Ham to step in to the leadership role.

“I’m excited she’s coming in,” he said.

Ham told the Record that she has been on the council before, years ago early on. And she only recently got back on with the group, and now is stepping into the leadership position.

“Jim has done a wonderful job, and it’s going to be big shoes to fill,” Ham said. “It’s going to be a big void, and I’ll just try to do the best I can to bring tourism to southwest North Dakota.”

Ham said they are always looking for people interested in North Dakota history, that want to get involved with the group. Anybody interested in joining should contact her for more information.