Finger Lakes Visitors Connection Staff

Valerie Knoblauch, President and CEOvalerie-knobluach-flvc-staff-casual

Valerie was hired as the first director of tourism for Ontario County in 1984. Her previous experience included tour guide responsibilities and public relations manager at Gold Seal Vineyards in Hammondsport.

Valerie has a degree in English Education from State University College at Oswego and a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. Valerie also holds the CTP designation from the National Tour Association. She has taught on the adjunct faculty at local colleges and guest lectured at a variety of institutions including New York University. She is a current member of the New York State Tourism Industry Association Executive Committee and past board member of the Travel Industry Association of America. 

Valerie has authored several articles on travel and tourism issues, and has published the Ontario County Pictorial History Book. She is often a speaker at the national level on strategic planning, destination management, and marketing.

You may contact Valerie if you have further questions on these topics:

  • Government Relations
  • Board Relations and Management
  • I LOVE NY and New York State Office of Economic Development
  • Financial/Audit
  • House Management/Hospitality Events
  • NYS Matching Funds and Explore NY Grant Program
  • Product Development
  • Industry Awards and Recognition
  • Tourism Economic Development
  • Ontario County Tourism Statistics and Analysis

Email Valerie at: or call her at (585) 394-3915 x101

christen-smith-flvc-staff-casualChristen Smith, Director of Marketing and Communications

Christen Smith is no stranger to Ontario County – she’s lived here her entire life. So, for her, she says it felt like she won the lottery when she was offered the job as Director of Marketing and Communications at FLVC.

Christen and her husband, Mike, live in the City of Canandaigua. She grew up in the Marcus Whitman School District, and graduated from St. John Fisher College with a degree in communication/journalism and earned a master’s degree in management from Keuka College. She spent 13 years at Keuka College where she worked as Associate Director of Communications, as well as five years as an adjunct instructor in the Humanities Division. After that, she worked at Finger Lakes Health in Geneva as Community Outreach Coordinator for nearly seven years. She also worked as a freelance writer for several publications including the Daily Messenger, 585 Magazine, and Life in the Finger Lakes magazine. In her spare time she enjoys traveling (she and Mike are working towards visiting all 50 states – they have seven left), hanging out with her five nieces and nephews, listening to audio books, and traveling to the occasional NASCAR race. She’s also making it her mission to try every restaurant in the new FLVC visitors guide.

You may contact Christen if you have further questions on these topics:

  • Public Relations
  • Media Relations
  • Advertising
  • E-mail Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Publications

Email Christen at: or call her at (585) 394-3915 x106

melissa-knobluach-flvc-staff-casualMelissa Knoblauch, Partner and Community Relations Manager

Melissa is our Partner and Community Relations Manager, working to develop strong relationships with industry partners and the community. She’s held various positions since joining the team in December 2014, including everything from helping renovate the first floor of the office to managing our digital and traditional promotional assets, and plenty in between.

Before joining FLVC, Melissa worked at several wineries and was Assistant Camp Director at Camp Good Days & Special Times. She is also a personal trainer and has worked at Bota Fitness in Canandaigua. Melissa holds an organizational communication degree from Keuka College and loves to bike, hike, read, and Netflix. She’s our resident Harry Potter expert, and lives in Canandaigua with her husband, Andrew, and their two cats.

You may contact Melissa if you have further questions on these topics:

  • Partnerships
  • Tourism Packages
  • Public Relations
  • Media Tours
  • Presentations
  • Content Marketing

Email Melissa at: or call her at (585) 394-3915 x105

2014-david-lee-golf-reservoir-portraitDavid Lee, Marketing Operations Manager

David Lee brings frontline and digital/IT experience to Finger Lakes Visitors Connection from his previous employer, The Inn on the Lake in Canandaigua. He is a graduate of the Finger Lakes Community College Hotel program and is obtaining an additional degree in Information Technology from FLCC. David’s focus at FLVC is making sure that the visitor experience and expectations are “exceeded” with quality delivery. He utilizes his technical skills to collect important data which helps in the development and growth of our tourism industry and a comprehensive understanding of our market opportunities. David is a father, and enjoys sharing his passion for the Finger Lakes with his family. He has varied interests including fishing, cooking, hiking and lots of computer stuff. But, if you are looking for him in the good weather – check out the local links. He’s an avid golfer.

You may contact David if you have further questions on these topics:

  • Website Management
  • Digital Marketing
  • Social and Digital Media (Photos, Videos)
  • Google Analytics
  • Tourism Market Research and Statistics
  • Product Inventory
  • Packaging & Events
  • Technical Support
  • Extranet (Partner Portal)

Email David at: or call him at (585) 394-3915 x107

carol-hicks-staff-portraitCarol Hicks, Executive Assistant and Office Manager

Carol joined the Visitors Connection team in December of 2013. Before entering the world of tourism, Carol worked at Crane’s Automotive Services, Inc. in Honeoye Falls in the role of Office Manager and Title Clerk. She assisted in automotive sales and service, and helped to manage the day to day operations of the business. Prior to her career at Crane’s, she was the manager of the Naples Hotel in Naples. At Finger Lakes Visitors Connection, she is responsible for clerical and administrative support to the Board of Directors and the President. As Office Manager, Carol is responsible for helping to maintain a safe, productive work environment at FLVC. When Carol's not helping market Ontario County to visitors, she's hiking the trails of the Finger Lakes with her dog, Shadow!

You may contact Carol if you have further questions on these topics:

  • Meeting Scheduling
  • Office Management
  • Finance
  • Board of Directors
  • Marketing Materials
  • Event Information and 3rd Party Seeding
  • Web Site Content and Listings

Email Carol at: or call her at (585) 394-3915 x100

kendall-bioKendall Knaak, Visitor Experience Curator and Marketing Associate

Kendall Knaak is a born and raised Upstate New York girl, so she is excited to bring her passion and love for the Finger Lakes area to the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection. She is currently the Visitor Experience Curator and Marketing Associate, so she will be involved with everything from creating the visitor experience from inspiration to post trip, as well as developing marketing content and assisting in public relations efforts.

Kendall is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University with a degree in public relations. Before joining FLVC, she was the assistant store manager at American Eagle Outfitters, bringing an understanding of the retail industry to the organization. She is an avid traveler, and previously lived in London for 5 months while in college. When she is not busy planning her next adventure, she can be found spending time with her friends and family, reading or (most likely) watching The Office.

You may contact Kendall if you have further questions on these topics:

  • Visitor Services
  • Visitor Trends and Data
  • FLX Travel Literature
  • Gateway Welcome Program
  • Public Relations
  • Media Relations
  • Content Marketing

Email Kendall at: or call her at (585) 394-3915

Board of Directors

Members of our Board of Directors complete a self-evaluation annually. 

Michael Kauffman

Robert Bennett
1st Vice Chairperson
Homewood Suites

David Hutchings
Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion

Frank Riccio

Mike Roeder 
Past Chairperson
Ravenwood Golf Club

Russ Kenyon
Kenyon and Kenyon

Alexa Gifford
Logical Business Solutions

Dan Marshall
Board of Supervisors
Town of South Bristol

Audrey Carrier
Events 4 U

John Brahm III
Arbor Hill Grapery

Donna Yudin
Ramada Geneva Lakefront

Daniel Fuller
Bristol Mtn/RoselandWaterpark

Steve McGuire
Holiday Inn Express

Meg Joseph
Friends of Ganondagan

Carl Carlson
Cheerful Valley Campground

Suzanne Farley

David Linger
Finger Lakes Gifts & Lounge