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Nicky Reynolds came from Tennessee to become the executive director of the Lebanon Tourist and Convention Commission in February of last year. In April, she will be returning to the Volunteer State, where she will become the vice president of the Rutherford County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Her final day as the Lebanon tourism director will be April 12.
Reynolds said she has always been career-oriented.
“Any chance that I can get to grow in my career, gain more expertise, that’s something that I have strived my whole life to do,” she said. “This is an incredible opportunity that I just felt like I couldn’t pass up.”
Reynolds also noted that one of the reasons she moved to central Kentucky was because her grandmother lived in Bardstown. Unfortunately, her grandmother passed away last year, which was much quicker than she expected.
Lebanon Tourism Chairman Brad Lanham said seeing Reynolds leave is bittersweet.
“We’re definitely sad to see her go,” he said. “But we’re excited for her from the aspect we know she’s moving on to a great opportunity.”
Lanham said when the commission hired Reynolds, it looked as some specific things such as marketing and social media as well as her ability to work with city officials.
“She fulfilled all of those wonderfully,” Lanham said.
Lanham and Commission Carlotta Brussell recently conducted a review of Reynolds’s performance, and they recommended approving a $1,500 incentive for Reynolds that was included in her initial contract. The commission voted at a special-called meeting March 21 to approve that incentive.
“She’s done a wonderful job as director. She’s brought us in line. She’s given us new perspective on where we’re going,” Brussell said at that meeting. “I think she’s done an excellent job as director.”
Lanham said the commission hoped it would be able to keep Reynolds for three to five years.
“We knew with the talent that she had that there would be other people who would be looking for her,” Lanham said. “I don’t apologize for hiring extremely qualified people for the job. That’s just one of the risks you have when you hire good people.”
Just as Marion County is the geographic center of Kentucky, Rutherford County is the geographic center of Tennessee.
Reynolds is already familiar with this area, which is 30 minutes south of Nashville. As a student, she attended several competitions in Murfreesboro (the Rutherford County seat), and she has seen how that community has grown. With the move, Reynolds will also be closer to her immediate family. In Lebanon, she is four hours away, whereas Murfreesboro is a two-hour drive.
Reynolds said she found Lebanon to be a welcoming community from the first moments she arrived.
“I was literally unpacking the U-Haul. My neighbor came across the driveway and welcomed me to Lebanon and gave me a card and said, ‘If you need anything, here’s my number,’” Reynolds said.
That told her immediately that Lebanon is a community-oriented place, and that carried over into her work with the City of Lebanon. Any time she had a request for assistance from city officials, she found they were willing to help however they could.
“It’s that kind of attitude that I really think is going to help Lebanon continue to grow, not only as a city but as a tourism destination,” Reynolds said.
From a tourism professional’s perspective, she also found that Lebanon has a lot to offer. The community can promote itself to several different niche markets, which makes it a great place to sell to tourists, she said.
“I can talk bourbon and the spirits. I can talk about the religious heritage in the area. I can talk about the Civil War and the incredible historic homes that we have here,” Reynolds said. “There’s just so much to offer, so much for people to come here and explore.”
She added that the variety also made the job fun for her.
During Reynolds time as tourism director, the Lebanon tourist commission has completed the redesign of its website (visitlebanonky.com), revamped its marketing efforts to incorporate more social media along with traditional promotional efforts, and attracted events including the first-ever Warrior Dash held in Kentucky and the Color in Motion 5K, which is scheduled for May 11. The tourism office has even created a Turtleman Trek for visitors looking to learn more about the star of Animal Planet’s “Call of the Wildman.”
“The Turtleman and the Heritage Center is one more thing Lebanon has to offer,” Reynolds said.
She added that the commission is in the process of getting brown signs to direct visitors to newer attractions like Limestone Branch Distillery and White Moon Winery.
She said tourism marketing is a constant build-up and the commission has tried to implement a fuller advertising plan. This includes creating a cohesive look for the commission’s promotional materials, website and the new sign that will be placed on property near Maker’s Mark.
“I’ve tried really hard over the past year to enhance the image of Lebanon, not just in the state of Kentucky but as a regional tourism destination throughout the South and Midwest,” Reynolds said.
As she prepares to start the next chapter in her career, Reynolds said she hopes the next tourism director will continue the marketing efforts started in the past year.
She also thanked the community for embracing her in her time here. She recalled that she spoke to the Marion County Chamber of Commerce shortly after arriving here.
“I asked you to give me a chance and embrace tourism, and I really felt like you did that,” Reynolds said. “There has been an incredible amount of support for this office in the past year that I’ve been here. That’s made my job a lot easier.”
Lanham said Reynolds’ departure is a loss for the commission.
“We’re all excited about the direction we’re going and definitely the groundwork that Nicky’s laid for us,” he said.
The search begins again
Reynolds replaced former Lebanon tourism director Chris Hamilton. He left that position in August of 2011 to become the executive director of the Aurora Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, located near Chicago, Ill.
Wayne Keen, the former transportation director for Marion County Public Schools, was hired as the interim director on Oct. 24, 2011, and he remained in that position until March 2, 2012.
Reynolds came to Lebanon from the Oak Ridge (Tenn.) Convention and Visitors Bureau. Prior to that, she also worked for the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Convention and Visitors Bureau.
During her time in Lebanon, she was named the 2012 Rookie of the Year by the Kentucky Travel Industry Association. The commission also received recognition for improving its social media efforts — which included increasing the commission’s Facebook fan base by 500 percent and creating Pinterest and YouTube accounts — and for creating a new visitor’s map of downtown Lebanon.
Knowing that April 12 is Reynolds’s last day as Lebanon’s tourism director, the commission has started advertising to find her replacement.
The commission is seeking someone with experience with budgets, marketing and advertising, development of activities, and working with community leaders. The applicant should have and four-year college degree or equivalent and two to four years of experience in tourism, public relations, business sales and marketing, and/or hospitality industry experience.
Anyone interested in applying for the position should send a resume by mail to Lebanon Tourist and Convention Commission, Attn: ED Search Committee, PO Box 587, Lebanon, KY 40033, or by email to email@example.com with the subject line “ED Resume”.
Applicants should note that no resumes will be accepted at the tourism office.
The advertising in this week’s Enterprise does not specify a possible salary, but when Reynolds was hired, her contract was for $4,291.67 per month. It also included a $100 monthly cellular phone allowance and up to $2,000 to assist with moving expenses.
The deadline to apply is April 8.