Longtime Santa Cruz local Zeke Fraser was named the county fair’s new manager Thursday, replacing Ken Alstott, who was hired in April on an interim basis. Fraser has a background in finance, property management and operations and has most recently been working for the Santa Cruz-based digital publishing company FileOpen Systems.
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After a tumultuous offseason without a leader, the Santa Cruz County Fair has chosen a new CEO.
Longtime Santa Cruz local Zeke Fraser was named the fair’s new manager Thursday, replacing Ken Alstott, who was hired in April on an interim basis. Fraser has a background in finance, property management and operations and has most recently been working for the Santa Cruz-based digital publishing company FileOpen Systems.
Fraser steps into a role that was held by Dave Kegebein before he was dismissed by the fair board in October after a state audit accused him of mismanagement. Since then, several members of the board resigned or were replaced in the controversial fallout following Kegebein’s firing.
Fraser has lived in Santa Cruz for nearly 30 years, according to a media release sent out Thursday morning. His father traveled the county fair circuit in California as part of a musical band. Fraser toured with him and participated in several Renaissance Faires as a teenager. “I think the fair has been calling to me for a long time, and I’m excited to finally answer that call,” he said in the release.
He added: “Being local gives me the perspective and the contacts to ensure that the fair continues to be well sponsored and that the people of Santa Cruz and surrounding counties will get a fun and enjoyable county fair that feels like it belongs to them.”
The fair board said Fraser plans to meet with volunteers, staff and members of the community “to bring clarity, consensus and closure after recent uncertainty.”
Fraser will be the fourth person to helm the county fair since October, when Kegebein, CEO of the Santa Cruz County Fair for the previous 11 years, was fired by the fair’s board of directors, under pressure from officials of the California Department of Food & Agriculture in the wake of a compliance audit conducted by CDFA, the controlling agency for all the state’s county fairs. That audit charged Kegebein with, among other things, ignoring or disregarding state regulations in accounting for his spending while he served as the fair’s CEO, including unauthorized charges for gasoline and other automobile-related expenses.
Interim fair director Kelley Ferreira stepped in to replace Kegebein, but resigned in April amid rancorous and confrontational board meetings and anger and upset in the community. The fair board then appointed Alstott, a veteran of state fair management who commuted from Tennessee, as interim director.
The 2023 Santa Cruz County Fair is scheduled for Sept. 13-17.