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The Lebanon Tourist and Convention Commission has been searching for a new executive director for months. Monday, they found her, and she was in their own office the whole time.
Carla Wagner was approved by a 4-0 vote to become the new director at the commission's July 8 meeting after a 30-minute executive session.
Chairman Brad Lanham was not present at Monday's meeting, and two commission seats expired at the end of June, leaving the commission with four members at the meeting.
Wagner said she appreciated the trust the commissioners showed in her. She added that she’s worked under the two previous directors, Chris Hamilton and Nicky Reynolds, who did a fantastic job in that position.
“I really just want to have the opportunity and responsibility to do it now,” she said.
Wagner has been employed by the tourism commission since July of 2010, when she was hired as the administrative assistant. She has been serving as the interim director since April 18.
Wagner added that removing the interim from her title makes her feel more free to move forward with some new ideas.
Wagner’s hiring was made retroactive to July 1, and she will receive an annual salary of $37,000. The commission also agreed to pay for her to attend the Marketing College in Delongia, Ga. The college is run by the Southeast Tourism Society. The college is one week per year, and lasts three years. When she finishes the third year, she will be a certified tourism marketing professional.
She estimated that the total cost to attend all three years of the Marketing College will be around $4,000, which includes travel and lodging. She said both Hamilton and Reynolds were TMPs, and she believed that was the commission’s expectation for the next executive director.
“I feel they have a lot of trust in me,” Wagner said.
Even though Lanham was not present for Monday’s meeting, he said he definitely supported the decision to hire Wagner.
“She’s done a fine job, and we’ve been tickled with what she’s done,” he said.
Lanham added that the board considered the TMP certification to be important for Wagner or whoever is in the director’s seat. He added that Wagner brings with her a knowledge of the community and a knowledge of how the tourism office works.
He also said they had received several compliments about Wagner and the office during recent events like the Color In Motion 5K.
“We’re excited about the decision,” Lanham said. “We’re ready to move forward.”
Look for more on this in next week's edition.
The commission also has two vacancies now. Nancy Higdon's term and Tom Lund's term expired at the end of June, according to Lanham.
He said they hadn't realized the terms were over, and as a result, no requests were made to find replacements. He said Higdon and Lund did not plan to return to the commission.
Higdon was the hotel/motel association representative, and Lund was the in the seat appointed by the Marion County Industrial Foundation.
Whoever is appointed to fill those seats will serve until June 2016.
In other business:
- Wagner reported that the final monthly report of the fiscal year was in the commissioners’ packets, but she would like to prepare a proper end-of-year report for the next meeting.
- Wagner reported that the commission has already given away the 12,000 copies of the Discover guide it ordered for this year. Last year, they ran out of guides in November.
Wagner added that they are keeping track of the addresses where guides have been requested and what events and attractions potential visitors are asking about.
- Mary Kay Clements of the Marion County Heritage Center asked if there was a need to have a standing order to include events at the center in the tourism commission's promotional materials. She pointed out that some recent events came up spontaneously, which didn't allow time to attend a commission meeting before the event.
Wagner suggested coming up with a list of specific organizations or venues that were a standard part of marketing efforts so individuals involved with those organizations would not necessarily have to come before the commission every time an event was happening. She noted that the heritage center is run by a 501(c)3 organization that is located downtown, which is an area they want to encourage visitors to come already.
- Wagner added that half the tickets for the Eddie Miles concerts through September have already been sold. Their goal is to sell out Angelic Hall every night.
- In a previous meeting, Robin Humphress of Kentucky Classic Theatre discussed having a comedy show on the Saturday night of Ham Days weekend. The commission had encouraged her to look into a different weekend since the hotels are already sold out that weekend.
After looking at other options, they agreed that having the show on Saturday night could help lead to additional shows by those comedians.
Commissioner Carlotta Brussell asked if the show would be competing with anything else that night.
Wagner said the Marion County Chamber of Commerce is not providing its own entertainment for Saturday evening, and the chamber director was supportive of having the comedy show that weekend.
- Wagner said she met with a group at Lebanon United Methodist Church recently to discuss upcoming events at Centre Square. She said they were excited to hear about the events, and they discussed use of the church parking lot, possibly for a fee for people who are parking there.
Joe Hickey suggested maybe paying a flat fee to the church for use of the parking lot during specific events, so visitors may not have to pay for parking.