Former tourism board accomplished much during the past five years

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

CORINTH – The removal earlier this week of all board members from the Corinth Area Convention and Visitors Bureau/tourism council brought an end to several years of significant accomplishments for those who are leaving the positions.
A joint committee of the Alcorn County Board of Supervisors and Corinth mayor and Board of Aldermen voted to dismiss the tourism council board members, in whom they said they had lost confidence, after the board members did not adhere to a revised fiscal year 2013 budget the joint committee had developed for tourism.
Since Wednesday tourism’s two full-time staff members – Kristy White as executive director and Karen Beth Martin as program director – have both given notice of their resignations.
In a special meeting Friday the Corinth board voted to approve five new tourism council board members who are jointly appointed with the county and one board member who is solely appointed by the city.
New tourism council board members are: Joint city/county appointees Luke Doehner, owner of General’s Quarters bed and breakfast, who began serving a second term on the board in October 2012; Pauline Sorrell of CB&S Bank, who began serving her first term in November 2012; Billy Taylor of Taylor’s Escape restaurant; Danny Timmons of Little Foods; and Russell Smith of Russell’s Beef House. The city’s independent appointee is Laura Albright and the county’s appointee has yet to be named.
Alcorn County supervisors will meet at 9 a.m. Monday in regular session and are expected to consider ratifying the joint appointees approved by the Corinth board and may also name the county’s independent appointee.
Former tourism council board members are: Doehner; Sorrell; Chris Porterfield of Coca-Cola, beginning his second term on the board; Judge John Ross, who has served several terms on the board; Ricky Marecle of Hampton Inn, who has served several terms on the board; retiree Glennan Grady, who was beginning his second term on the board; and Phil Little of Little Foods, appointed to begin his first term November 2012, but who had never taken his seat on the board.
White was hired as executive director in December 2007, less than a year before the U.S. economy took a severe downturn. Martin came on board in September 2008.
Despite the potential for a severe decline in local tourism revenue, the tourism council board and staff members White and Martin helped to keep tourism tax revenue growing. For the five years ending September 2008 through September 2012, Corinth’s tourism tax revenue was $947,261; $947,695; $975,657; $1,007,568; and $1,058,453.
Among the tourism council’s accomplishments during that period:
• Provided matching funds for a Siege and Battle of Corinth Commission Preserve America grant, which attracted $120,000 of Civil War-related projects to Corinth and Alcorn County and garnered a national award for the Commission that took them to Washington, D.C. to accept the award from President George W. Bush in 2008.
• Helped launch the first Crossroads Chili Cookoff in April 2008.
• Created and funded new committees to develop new programs: Arts/Culture, Heritage/Preservation and Sports/Outdoor Recreation.
• Initiated a monthly tourism radio talk show spot called “Let’s Talk Tourism” on WXRZ 94.3 FM in September 2008.
• Collaborated with the National Park Service for the first Grand Illumination in November 2008.
• Created a suite of new print brochures, maps, videos and other products to attract visitors and help visitors find places of interest and attractions while in Corinth and Alcorn County.
• Paid to construct a new fence around Crossroads Regional Park football and soccer fields April 2009.
• Launched a Passport Program to generate more visitors to local attractions in May 2009.
• Won the top tourism award in its size category as Small Convention and Visitors Bureau of the Year in March 2010.
• Launched the Green Market in conjunction with the third Chili Cookoff in April 2010.
• Hosted travel writers for tourism promotion, garnering thousands of dollars in editorial articles to attract visitors to Corinth and Alcorn County in the fall 2010.
• Hosted Mississippi Development Authority tourism officials, Mississippi Welcome Center staff members and Mississippi legislators on tourism committees for extensive tours to familiarize more state officials with the attractions of Corinth and Alcorn County.
• Received a $49,000 grant award from MDA tourism to advertise and promote Civil War Sesquicentennial-related events and attractions in January 2011.
• Launched a dedicated Civil War Sesquicentennial website in July 2011.
• Collaborated on a number of projects throughout 2012, including the Battle of Farmington Reenactment, for 150th anniversary commemorations of the U.S. Civil War.

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com