By Stephen Smoot
The board of directors for the newly separated Pendleton County Convention and Visitors Bureau met last week. Most discussions centered around the steps needed to establish the bureau and prepare it to function.
First, the board sought to elect the officers of president, vice president, and secretary/treasurer. The president’s primary role is to run the meetings and assume any other duties as the board directs. When the president cannot officiate, the vice president runs meetings in his or her stead. One person will fill both secretary and treasurer roles.
After being hired, the executive director will work closely with board officers in directing the CVB and its efforts.
Janice Lantz volunteered to serve as president for the board and Stephanie Hartman will be vice president. Sam Wood will be secretary and treasurer. The board unanimously approved the slate of officers.
The board contains a solid mixture of individuals who have experience on boards alongside those with less experience, but just as many fresh ideas.
Next, the question of hiring an executive director was discussed. Since the Town of Franklin has not yet named its representative to the board, it was decided to remove the town’s representative from the list of a proposed hiring committee. Gene McConnell, who is running the meetings initially until the board officers can take over, stated “I just want to give them every chance to participate.”
The board decided to name Bryan Williams, Stephanie Hartman, County Commissioner Carl Hevener, and Laura Brown, Pendleton County EDA executive director. After Oct. 19, the last day that postmarked applications were accepted, they will review the applications and deliver recommendations to the full committee.
Some members of the board pushed for a quick hiring process, if possible, with Hevener suggesting that “the hiring committee should meet next week so we can present recommendations.” Williams added that there’s “no reason to wait on any of that,” but that “if the board has not decided on a candidate, we can readvertise.”
Board members explained that the executive director would need to cooperate with other counties. Williams said that he or she would also need to explore what others are doing while McConnell suggested that cooperation with Grant County could help achieve goals.
Board members also discussed the possibility of accreditation with the West Virginia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureau. It was noted that accreditation requires “a lot of paperwork,” but “if not (accredited) their eyes roll when they talk to you.”
McConnell said it’s “important to establish credentials.”
Multiple discussions revolved around setting up a financial infrastructure and basic plans of operation. The board decided to set up three separate bank accounts to address state compliance issues more easily. A discussion on spending led to board members and others present discussing what size balance to keep.
Hevener noted “one thing we don’t want is a big bank account,” saying that money left in accounts does not promote county tourism. He also said that “I’d keep probably $10,000 for something that pops up that you want to address or support.”
McConnell agreed, saying “we don’t want to get to the point where we miss events because of the cost of a hotel room.”
The board also discussed the short term direction of the CVB. Brown said “we are not starting completely from scratch,” and added the old combined CVB and Chamber of Commerce office had kept records. McConnell then explained the need to separate the CVB and Chamber of Commerce offices. He said that combination of a state construct and a non-profit created compliance challenges with the state.
He added that “there wasn’t anything really happening. We thought there was more potential there than what we were seeing.”
Going forward, McConnell said that he expected “a lot of synergy between the EDA director and the CVB director.” The old Chamber of Commerce location will serve as the new base office for the CVB and EDA.
Early priorities would start with a website and weekend access to a visitor center. Board members noted that AmeriCorps volunteers may soon be available to staff the center off business days although as Brown pointed out, “I don’t see a body necessary if you have broadband and brochures.” Members agreed that the center can offer free broadband Wi-Fi internet and brochures for county attractions as well.