“When people think of Dallas, they still think of J.R. Ewing’s ranch,” says Lake Highlands resident Fritzi Woods.

It’s a misperception that Woods, as the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau’s newest chairperson, would like to see go away.

Woods was elected chairman (a volunteer position) by the CVB board, which she has been a member of for three years, and was approved by Mayor Laura Miller last October. It’s not her first foray into the world of conventions and tourism. She served as the chief financial officer for Houston’s CVB in 1987.

“That’s where I first developed a passion for the [convention and tourism] industry and its impact on cities,” Woods says. “It was one of my favorite jobs in my career. That was where I first got my passion for selling.”

She came to Dallas in 1997 after being recruited by Belo, and then transferred to the Dallas Morning News where she served as CFO and vice president of finance.

For the last three years, however, she has owned restaurant-equipment company PrimeSource FoodService Equipment, Inc.

“I had been on the management and executive track for several years and was ready for the next stage – I wanted to own my own company,” she says. “The opportunity presented itself to me so I just took a chance.”

Given her resume, it’s not difficult to see why she was chosen as the CVB’s new leader.

Woods is, in short, a woman with a plan. Perhaps not surprisingly, part of that plan involves one half of Dallas’ tagline – “Live Large, Think Big” – a tagline Woods helped come up with.

“We have to be able to really think big,” she says of the city’s future in the convention and tourism industry.

She hopes that, if the CVB team is successful, the Dallas Convention Center will be considered among the nation’s top five by 2010. She has set her sights high – hoping to compete with cities such as San Antonio and even Las Vegas for tourism and convention dollars. Her goal, of course, is for Dallas to be considered a hot destination for business and pleasure.

What people don’t know,” she says, “is that we have a Nasher. They don’t know we have a Women’s Museum, an African-American Museum, this great Hispanic Cultural Center. We have to do an absolute better job of highlighting our arts. And we have to do a better job of doing that with marketing dollars.”

Where do those marketing dollars come from? Woods says they don’t exist right now. But she thinks she knows how to come up with them.

“One of my goals is to move forward on this initiative of marketing Dallas as a region instead of a city,” she says.

It’s not that she wants to detract attention from downtown or encourage people to visit Fort Worth or Frisco over Dallas. It’s just that she figures “each individual part [of the region] has its strength, but we’re all stronger when we market ourselves together.”

“We don’t have enough money not to do that,” Woods says. “In Dallas, we have five counties, and I don’t get hotel taxes from the other counties. So we have to be more creative in how we’re going to market Dallas, and the only way to do that is partner in a different way with the people who are getting those dollars.”

That said, Woods has a real passion for Dallas proper, and particularly for Lake Highlands.

“I love the people, and it really is a neighborhood,” she says. “When we moved here back in 1997, people literally brought us cookies. They brought us pizza when we were moving in. They invited us over to dinner, told us where things were. They were just so friendly.”

As for her CVB gig, she knows her work is cut out for her. But it’s a challenge she’s well prepared for and, if her past professional life is any indication, she should be successful.

“I’ve been a very blessed person – God has really blessed me,” she says.

Divine intervention is one thing – but Woods also knows that life is what you make it.

“I tell my children life is about choices. You make choices and then your choices will make you.”