NEW ALBANY – Next Monday, New Albany will have a new marketing director.
Sean Johnson, currently in a similar position for Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau, is a New Albany resident who is intimately familiar with the community’s assets. He said his aim will be “to brand the city as a great place to visit and a great place to live.
“We’ve got great schools, low taxes, low crime, a beautiful downtown, and a great location,” said Johnson, whose career has included marketing positions in Florida and Costa Rica. He listed among tourism assets the city’s parks and sports venues, downtown shops, highway access and the soon-to-open Tanglefoot recreational trail.
While few would dispute the advantages of having a full-time marketer, some question the timing of and lack of input on Johnson’s hiring.
City officials had requested a committee research ways to market and manage tourism. The committee was slated to present a year’s worth of findings in early August when the Board of Aldermen voted in special session in late July to hire Johnson.
Committee member Betsey Hamilton said they had hoped to create a more formal, term-limited tourism council before making a hire.
“We were disheartened that the Board of Aldermen and mayor made the decision without at least consulting us,” she said. “We wanted to present our findings and learn what their concerns were.”
The report cited needs to examine organizational structure, accountability for use of tourism tax funds, decision processes for funds distribution and concerted tourism promotion.
Mayor Tim Kent said Johnson’s hiring before the report’s delivery wasn’t a slap at the tourism group and its then-pending report.
“Actually, I think most of the board had forgotten it,” he said. “Probably, it was a lack of communication.”
Johnson had a large part in the Elvis-centric www.welovetupelo.com and Tupelo CVB’s Facebook page, which now has more than 100,000 likes. He said despite enjoying his work in Tupelo, he’s eager to start bringing visitors to his hometown.
A New Albany tourism website is likely a few months away, but, Johnson said, “We can start with our social media presence quickly.”