Tourism director’s position dissolved

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Chamber to take over administrative duties

By Bryan Marshall

Judy Mullins is being let go 10 years to the day she became executive director of Grant County Tourism and Convention Commission.

The commission voted during its Feb. 16 meeting to dissolve the position of executive director March 1 and contract administrative services with the Grant County Chamber of Commerce.

The commission will pay the chamber of commerce $1,700 a month for a year.

The move will save the tourism commission a little more than $10,000 per year, said commission member Randy Slayback, who made the motion to dissolve the position.

“I think with this additional money that we’re going to have it’s going to give us the ability for more advertising on our local functions and if people come to us with requests, hopefully being able to give them more money for their projects in Grant County,” he said. “We see it as giving back to the community in ways that will attract tourism to Grant County.”

The proposal was initially brought up during the commission’s November meeting. However, no action took place until the February meeting.

“I was embarrassed and shocked,” Mullins said about her reaction when it was brought up at the November meeting. “I had heard rumors, but when this was brought up in the board meeting, I burst out in anger. It was just a natural reaction. I sort of regret my behavior now.”

Mullins, who described her time as tourism director as “the best job I have ever had,” thanked the commission for their decision after the vote.

“It has not been the same, since our office closed in Dry Ridge a year and half ago,” she said. “I had no problem with my co-workers. They have treated me very nicely. I just miss the contact with the tourists. Over the years, I have met so many interesting people. I was able to direct them to their destination”.

“They would often ask, “where’s a good place to eat that’s not a chain restaurant?” When they asked what’s to do on a Friday or Saturday night, I would send them to the Olde Star Theatre for country and bluegrass music,” she said.

Slayback said the decision was a simple cost-cutting measure and had nothing to do with Mullins’ job performance.

“I’ve only been on the board for a little over a year and everything she has done has been very professional,” he said. “It’s strictly dollars and sense and the way the economy has been lately.”

Commission member Vanessa Rose initially expressed reservation about the move.

“I’ll be honest, I’m not interested in being absorbed by the chamber,” she said.

However, Slayback replied that the chamber simply would be acting under the direction of the commission for administrative purposes.

After about an hour in executive session, the commission approved the proposal.

Wade Gutman, Grant County Chamber of Commerce executive director, said little will change since the chamber already provides accounting, telephone and office space for the tourism commission.

“The fact is that a lot of chamber of commerce and tourism offices throughout the state and nation share the same facilities and function well without any duplication of services,” he said. “The chamber will handle all duties described in the tourism’s own job description for the director position and any other duties the tourism board directs us to do.”

While Gutman said he feels the chamber can handle the added responsibilities, the possibility of adding a part-time staff member to lighten the load at times has been built in to the proposal.

If the planned Ark Encounter attraction in Williamstown opens in the coming years, an estimated 1.6 million visitors will flood into Grant County in its first year, according to projections.

Although the work load for the tourism office would increase, needs would be met through collaboration, said Gutman.

“At that time, we will be working with the Ark Encounter’s marketing group, the State Tourism office and the Northern Kentucky Tourism offices,” he said. “We feel that we are capable of operating the office and working well with all three groups. There will also be an increase in activity for the Industrial Development Authority office and also the chamber. We can anticipate adding staff as the need arises.”

In her remaining days as director, Mullins said will help make the transition as smooth as possible for the chamber.

While she admits she will be sad for awhile, Mullins said she has many hobbies and will now be able to spend more time with her grandchildren.

She said she will also remain active with the Grant County Historical Society, working at the William Arnold Log Home in Williamstown and helping with the restoration of the Sherman Tavern Historic Stagecoach Stop.

During her tenure, Mullins said she is proud of getting the first artists together that later became CETA, bringing the commission more than $125,000 in matching grants and photographing nearly every place in Grant County for brochures, magazines, the phone book and websites.

“I’ve enjoyed my job tremendously, but I know when God closes one door, he opens many more,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what’s behind these other doors.”