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Spend even a few minutes chatting with Natasha Caputo and you’re likely to walk away convinced that our county is the place to be. Her infectious enthusiasm for all things Westchester bubbles over immediately —it’s easy to see why County Executive Robert Astorino handpicked her three years ago to lead Westchester County’s tourism department. After eight years of running the strategic marketing and partnership operations of New York City’s tourism agency, NYC & Company—where she helped expand and establish signature events like New York City Restaurant Week—Caputo says it was a “no brainer” to accept Astorino’s offer.

Though she’s been living in the county (in Mount Kisco) only since 2006, Caputo has deep Westchester roots: She reverse-commuted from Northern Manhattan to high school at Our Lady of Victory Academy in Dobbs Ferry and then attended Westchester Community College and Iona College. Today, Caputo is the county’s ultimate cheerleader, working tirelessly (“She never turns down a meeting,” says one colleague) to build relationships and form partnerships with corporate, government, and community organizations that help drive tourism and visitor activity throughout Westchester.

Caputo developed the popular “Meet Me In Westchester” multichannel branding campaign aimed at elevating awareness of the county’s travel and tourism industry, and she’s been instrumental in promoting Westchester as a TV- and film-friendly destination—some 70 productions, including hit shows The Leftovers, The Following, and Girls, will film in Westchester this year, compared to 33 in 2011. Caputo also enhanced the tourism department’s web presence, adding user-friendly elements for both businesses (the ability to submit bid requests online) and consumers (curated itineraries like “Westchester Without a Car” and “Fall Family Fun”), as well as beefing up its social media engagement.

It’s all part of her strategy to banish Westchester’s “sleepy bedroom community” reputation. “Tourism in Westchester is a $1.7 billion market that accounts for 24,000 jobs,” Caputo says. “There are so many things to do here. We have great food. Our hotels are all expanding and renovating. We have wonderful events and beautiful scenery, and very supportive corporate partners. That’s the message we are working to get out.”

Like we said, she’s a great cheerleader.

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