Tourism gains new officers

No permanent director named

The Webster Parish Convention and Visitors Commission held its first meeting of 2018 Thursday morning. Officers were elected, and three new commissioners joined the board.

Returning member Ty Pendergrass was unanimously elected as the new chairman for a two-year term, replacing Jerry Madden, who is rotating out. Madden attended the meeting and addressed the commissioners following the election.

“Ladies and gentlemen, my job is over,” Madden said. “I relinquish this to you. You’re going to have a great two years. You should have no problems – we took care of that last year. You are moving forward. It’s a great bunch, and I’m really excited that you, Ty, have such a great board to work with.”

Pendergrass accepted the position and thanked Madden for his service.

“Jerry navigated us through a difficult season last year,” he said. “Things that weren’t in the job description. But a good friend of mine once said that life is what happens when you have other things planned.”

Both Madden and Pendergrass were referring to the controversy surrounding former executive director Lynn Dorsey that ended in her termination early last year. The CVC has been without a permanent director since February. Johnnye Kennon has been performing the director’s duties in the interim.

The meeting’s agenda included the appointment of chairmen for three committees, including the personnel committee that would be in charge of finding Dorsey’s replacement. However, Pendergrass suggested that this item be tabled until he as the new chairman has time to speak with each commissioner about where he or she would like to serve.

This was met with the only disagreement of the meeting. Returning commissioner Jim Huffman, vice president of operations at Sunrise Hospitality, said he would hesitate to delay on appointing a new personnel chairman.

“I’ve got a problem with putting off personnel, because us not having a director has stopped me from building a hotel in our community,” he said. “I don’t want to continue going down that road.”

In the end a tentative meeting date on February 8 was agreed upon to appoint the committee chairmen and discuss the search for a new executive director. Huffman said hiring a director is of paramount importance.

“The day after we made our decision with Lynn, I gave a lengthy proposal for recruiting, hiring, training, and developing that position,” he said. “I’ve followed up on that email now three times. I think that it’s important for us to have a director and for us to continue to push Webster Parish forward.”

Despite the events of early 2017, Kennon said in her tourism report that it was a successful year for parish tourism.

“We had a really good year,” she said. “We started a new promotion called Destnation Webster where we ask people to write in, call, email us and let us know what they like about Webster Parish. Then we’d go out and visit those places and promote them.”

Kennon reviewed several events and promotions in tourism over the past year, and she closed by highlighting an important award victory.

“The Holiday Trail of Lights won the Louey Award for event of the year,” she said. “We’re really, really excited about that. It consists of eight cities in north Louisiana, and we all promoted each other. It was an awesome experience to win the top event of the year.”

The commission approved two grants at the meeting: a Major Grant for the Grilling on Main event in the amount of $4,000 and an Advertising Grant for Trails and Trellises Garden Tour in the amount of $1,000.

The commission also granted Kennon the power to sign contractual agreements in the new year, appointed her a representative to serve on the Webster Parish Sales & Use Tax Commission, and approved her to travel on two businesses trips over the first quarter.

Joining the commission in 2018 are Tracy Campbell, vice president at MBL Bank; Derek Melancon, HR director at Springhill Medical Center; and Nick Cox, the police juror for district 8.

The CVC will meet again in two weeks to appoint committee chairmen.

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