Does city have new tourism director?

Published 12:46 am Wednesday, October 17, 2007

NATCHEZ — Starting this month, the city has a new tourism director at the helm to market the city.

But it’s not clear whether the position is temporary or permanent.

Former tourism director Walter Tipton started working under management group New Orleans Hotel Consultants when they started managing the convention center, community center and auditorium last week.

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Connie Taunton, who has been serving as marketing director for the city, took the title of tourism director, as well, Oct. 1.

But Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said the board of aldermen had not addressed the topic. Since there has been no action taken, she said, the position is not long-term. Instead, Taunton would serve on an interim capacity until the board addressed the position.

Alderman David Massey said the board had addressed the topic in an executive session several weeks ago and decided on Taunton.

“The board agreed she would be permanent,” Massey said. “Joyce wasn’t there. Everyone but Joyce was there.”

Alderman Bob Pollard said the board agreed Taunton would replace Tipton as city tourism director.

Taunton was an appropriate choice because she served as tourism director before Tipton, Pollard said.

“We all agreed to it,” Pollard said. “Everyone at the table said they did not have a problem with that. I’m confused. It’s not a conflict.”

The board has not taken formal action yet, Mayor Phillip West said.

The city did not advertise for applicants, but they don’t have to, West said.

However, once the board decides on a candidate to permanently fill the position, “it needs to be formally adopted by the board,” he said.

The board knew at the time the management contract was drawn up that Tipton planned to join the management company, West said.

The board discussed the changeover in an executive session at its last meeting, he said.

“I kind of think probably some of the members of the board always thought she’d take (Tipton’s) place because she was serving as his assistant anyway,” West said. “That’s probably why nobody felt it was an urgent matter we needed to address prior to a couple weeks ago.”

Taunton will not receive any additional pay as tourism director, West said.

“The general feeling (among) persons present (at the board meeting) was that it would not be feasible at this particular point to bring in funds to allocate somebody new at this particular time,” he said.

Tipton was paid an annual salary of $58,000, City Clerk Donnie Holloway said.

The board would likely address the subject of tourism director at the next board meeting, he said.

Taunton said she was not taking on another full-time job, as she was already doing much of the work

Tipton, now working with the consultant group, will work to market meeting space downtown, particularly the convention center and the new Country Inn and Suites.

Taunton was already managing the convention center and served as marketing director.

“I was told I was voted on and approved,” Taunton said.

Tipton, who was playing a lead role in running the convention center, will be doing much of the same work under a different management.

Taunton will continue overseeing the visitors’ center and take on a larger role in marketing the city as a whole.

“I’m excited,” Taunton said. “We have to sell our destination first. We do that by telling (people) what we have to offer as far as meeting space, hotels, and what there is to do after their meeting.”