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CVB director choice could affect legacy

When the last piece of confetti falls and all 365 days of Natchez’s 300th birthday end, what one thing will have the greatest lasting impact on our community?

Since he was elected to office, Natchez mayor Butch Brown has talked a great deal about legacy projects in connection with Natchez’s upcoming tricentennial. While much of the plans for 2016 focus on celebrating, Brown has stressed the importance of creating something that will last long after the candles on the cake are blown out.

These undertakings the mayor calls “legacy projects” include renovations of the Broadway Street Depot, the removal of the clutter created by utility lines and a makeover of Martin Luther King Jr. Street with scattered site housing. All could have a lasting impact on our community by making the streets look better, by making our neighborhood’s more livable and by preserving one of the city’s greatest assets — the Mississippi River Bluff.

With less than two years left before birthday guests arrive, many pieces will have to fall perfectly in place to see any one these legacy projects come to fruition.

The interesting thing about legacies is that the lasting impact of any project is never truly realized until years, sometimes decades, after it has been completed. In many cases, small decisions, that at the time seem relatively simple, have a greater impact than endeavors that require hours and hours of planning.

I would argue that Mayor Brown is faced with such a decision that has the potential to affect our community more than any demonstration gardens on the bluff and a few hundred poles taken off the city streets.

In the coming weeks, the mayor and the board of aldermen will choose the person who will lead the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau into the next era of tourism.

Such a decision has the potential to affect one of Natchez’s greatest industries for many years to come. As reported by the Mississippi Development Authority, decisions by the next CVB director have the potential to directly affect one in five non-farm jobs in Natchez and the surrounding area. The CVB last year decided how to use nearly $1.6 million in taxes from the city’s room and restaurant tax.

One of the recommendations national tourism consultant Berkley Young recently made to the city was that whoever is named the next CVB director, she or he must come from out of town. In fact, Young said he would fight hard against selecting someone from Natchez because he believed the community needs an independent voice who is less influenced by tradition and small-town politics.

That may be, but I wouldn’t rule out choosing a local for the position outright. One only has to look to Natchez Inc. to see that choosing a local, like Chandler Russ, is not all bad. In recent decades the Natchez native has been arguably the area’s most successful economic development director.

But just like Russ, the next CVB director must be part of a serious process with the intent of finding the best person for the position.

Russ interviewed for the position and let his credentials compete with other candidates. In the end the local candidate received the offer, not just because he was a native, but also because he was the best candidate.

The decision for the city’s next CVB director should be taken with the same seriousness, because she or he will affect the direction of tourism in Natchez for years to come. It has the potential to be one of Brown’s lasting legacies.

 

Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat .com.

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