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Tourist-aid bureau has new leader

Second-in-command will take over Feb. 1

Patti Bills, who suffered two strokes last year and is fighting lung cancer, has decided to retire as director of Medford's Visitor and Convention Bureau.

We're both over 60 and this has turned our lives into a different direction and it was time for her to retire, says Bob Bills, Patti's husband.

Julie Petretto, who has been assistant director with the bureau for 10 years and has been running things in Bills' absence, will take over as director Feb. 1.

I look forward to the challenge, says Petretto, adding that the bureau plans to aid in the city's vision planning process.

Petretto moved to Southern Oregon a decade ago. She's originally from the Portland area and attended Western Oregon State College before going to work for Hewlett-Packard as a marketing and trade show coordinator.

After working under Bills for a decade, Petretto notes that Bills' illness has made taking over an emotional event.

She was very much a mentor to me, Petretto says. She'll be missed.

Bob Bills says his wife is making slow but consistent progress and is now able to walk short distances with help; she suffered some paralysis in her left leg following her second stroke. The lung cancer remains, although there's been a miraculous reduction in the size and number of the cancer nodules.

Every day is full, between exercise, therapy, treatment, prayer time and eating, he says. It all takes up a full day.

Patti Bills, 61, directed the visitor bureau for 18 years and founded the Medford Jazz Jubilee, a popular festival held each fall. She also originated the We HUG Visitors in Medford slogan.

In a prepared statement, she said it was difficult to leave the post as Medford enters a new era.

With the new vim, vigor and vitality of the new city leadership, I will miss not being an active participant, she said. Promoting Medford and Southern Oregon was the best job in the state. I can truly say that I looked forward to going to work every day. Even after 18 years, there were still challenges and new projects to accomplish. I loved every minute of my work.