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The mission of the Lebanon Tourist & Convention Commission is to develop, increase and promote tourism in Lebanon and surrounding areas by featuring its history, culture, products and recreation/convention facilities.
Our goal is to become a choice destination for group travel, conventions and individual leisure/recreation travel. Through these efforts, the commission seeks to increase visitor spending, local revenue and job development, thereby enhancing the area's quality of life.
The mission of the local tourism commission is clear, but it seems that too many people in this community either don't understand it or they are simply ignoring it. Worse, it seems that some of the tourism commissioners themselves have lost their focus.
Instead of trying to explain what tourism's mission IS (we've done that before) let's point out what tourism's mission is NOT.
The mission of the tourism commission is NOT to say yes to every single grant request that they receive.
The mission of the tourism commission is NOT to shell out cash to every group that needs funding.
And, to be frank, it's not tourism's job to make one person or one group happy. But, lately, it seems that's become the focus for a majority of the commissioners, and in the process, they are tarnishing the image and credibility of their executive director who has worked tirelessly to increase tourism activity in and around Lebanon.
Until now, we have tiptoed around the subject, but not anymore.
So, here it goes. This is how we see it.
Lebanon City Councilman Kenny Marrett has not been "feeling the beat" regarding tourism for quite some time now. He's been outspoken about his discontent with the tourism commission, and more specifically, Executive Director Chris Hamilton. This began when the Dickens Christmas event was not promoted along with the Heart of Kentucky Holiday Festival last year. Marrett and the Main Street Committee were very upset about that, and that has boiled over into a back and forth battle between Marrett, the tourism commission and Hamilton that just won't end.
It's obvious that there is a personality conflict between Marrett and Hamilton, but now it seems several of the commissioners have joined Marrett in searching for ways to not only embarrass and humiliate Hamilton, but they are also trying to find ways to get rid of him.
During the commission's four-hour meeting on Feb. 14, Hamilton was raked over the coals about a $119 bill at Henning's Restaurant. Yet, at that same meeting, the commission awarded $12,000 to Marrett (on behalf of the Main Street Committee) for a barbecue festival even though the commissioners had already overcommitted their available grant funds.
What is wrong with this picture?
Something smells funny and it's not the barbecue.
We can't help but notice that there is a common factor here, and that's Kenny Marrett.
Last year, Jim Richardson, one of the founding commissioners, resigned from the commission because he was tired of constantly fighting with Marrett.
After a brief stint on the commission, Marrett resigned himself. He has admitted he was only interested in serving on the commission because of his displeasure with the Dickens Christmas situation.
Hamilton has been under fire since Marrett began instigating in March of last year. Hamilton has had to constantly defend himself and the tourism commission's mission at meetings and behind the scenes. Of late, it seems that Commission Chairwoman Carlotta Brussell and Commissioners Nancy Higdon and Tom Lund have become more concerned about making people like Marrett happy and, as a result, they have made it nearly impossible for Hamilton to focus on his job, which is growing Lebanon's tourism industry.
We support local tourism efforts, and we support Hamilton for the work he has done and continues to do for the local tourism industry. He has been the executive director since 2005, and it's more than just a job to him. We want to encourage Hamilton to continue to do what he was hired to do, which is increase and promote tourism in Lebanon and the surrounding areas. We hope that the commission will stop micromanaging Hamilton and regain their focus on what their role is as commissioners. We agree with Commissioner David Winebrenner Jr., who said during the Feb. 14 meeting that Hamilton should be encouraged to bring in more events like Jets Over Kentucky.
Over the years, Marrett has done many things to help the community, including donating his own time, talent and money. His efforts to promote the barbecue festival are just another example of that. We hope he will continue to put his energy into the many positive things that he does, rather than continuing to stir the pot.