Vicki Curlett and her husband, Rick, know just what so many people feel when they first arrive in Sisters Country. They had that classic Oregon moment as they crossed Santiam Pass and arrived in Sisters in the autumn of 2001.

Both had extensive and varied corporate careers.

"We had lived all over the country, but we both had always really wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest," she recalled. "Unfortunately, we could never get a job much west of Denver."

They were living in Nebraska when the events of September 11, 2001, changed the world. Vicki, who was operating her own company, had a 200-person corporate event underway in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her clients were stranded as air travel came to a sudden halt. She was only able to get them back to their homes gradually, by ones and twos, and she had to drive herself back to Nebraska.

At the end of the 16-hour drive, she was exhausted from "one of the most stressful trips I had done in my career."

Sunriver Resort in Central Oregon had requested that she conduct a site inspection of the facilities, and she and Rick decided to make a much-needed vacation of it. They flew into Portland - where it was raining - and drove over the pass in sunshine, with the trees and shrubs in their fall colors - and they hit Sisters.

"We said, 'Oh my gosh! This is it!'

They went on to Sunriver for Vicki's work.

"By Friday, we had bought a house and went back to Nebraska thinking, 'What did we just do?'" she recalled.

In July 2003, they moved to Sunriver, eventually ending up at Eagle Crest in 2010, between Sisters and Redmond. The couple buttoned up their businesses and took about four years off. Then Curlett got bored.

Full of drive and loving to be busy, she jumped into print advertising, first at The Bulletin, then for The Central Oregon Nickel. She left that position in October.

"I just felt that there was something else waiting for me out there," she said.

Her intuition steered her straight. In February she responded to a job listing for a position at The Nugget.

She was familiar with the paper from frequent visits to Sisters.

"When we did come over here, we always picked up the paper and took it home with us," she said. "We always thought it was very well done; the articles were great and the locals were really committed to advertising in the paper. So I thought, maybe this is my next adventure."

Editor in Chief Jim Cornelius said that the decision to hire Curlett was easy.

"She has a lot of experience and a lot of ideas, which is always great," he said. "But to tell the truth, the thing that impressed me most is her vision for her role. She really sees herself as a partner with her clients, helping them to market their business and make it more successful. That's just what a small-town community newspaper needs to be for its advertisers."

"That's who I am," she said. "My forte is to come alongside businesses to help them grow and prosper."

She prefers the title Community Marketing Partner, and she takes that role seriously. She recognizes that many business people are too busy running their business to focus on their marketing; many don't especially enjoy that aspect of business; and few can afford to hire somebody to do it for them.

That's where Curlett likes to pitch in, with creativity and a well of experience to draw from.

"In terms of marketing, don't be afraid to ask for help," she said. "I love the brainstorming aspect of it."

Nothing throws Vicki Curlett. She once worked in sales of outdoor power equipment, a male-dominated industry where she was constantly tested. She went to shop schools and learned to tear down engines and came to know the business as well as anyone and better than most - relishing the challenge.

"I was driving around in a Ford 150 pickup truck with a trailer loaded down with equipment, doing demonstrations with the guys," she recalled. "It was fun."

And she turned her territory into the top performer for the company.

Her work with The Nugget and her clients out in the Sisters business community keeps her busy - which is just the way she likes it. And she enjoys her new colleagues.

"I couldn't ask for a better group of people," she said, noting that everyone at the paper has "a common goal of serving the community."