Aldermen vote to hire Jennifer Combs as tourism director

Published 1:19 am Wednesday, January 18, 2017


NATCHEZ — The Natchez Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday to hire the city’s interim tourism director as the permanent director.

With virtually no discussion, the board voted 5-0 to hire Jennifer Ogden Combs for the position. Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard was not present for the vote.

Email newsletter signup

While the board voted to hire Combs, she has not formally accepted the position. Salary negotiations and other details have yet to be worked out. The board authorized Mayor Darryl Grennell to enter negotiations with Combs.

Combs has been serving as interim tourism director and is the city’s tricentennial director, a position that ends Jan. 31.

Combs previously told the board she was not interested in taking the position permanently.

“Circumstances have changed,” Combs said. “I am really looking forward to the opportunity to continue the work the tricentennial started.”

The board recently conducted a search process for a new director, but the city’s chosen candidate declined the offer, leaving city leaders to reevaluate how to move forward.

The director position was left vacant after former director Kevin Kirby was terminated in April 2016 following ongoing personnel issues at the Natchez Convention and Visitors Bureau. The board of aldermen also asked for the resignations of the members of the commission.

Since then, the city has been re-evaluating the management of its tourism operations and has sought to rebuild its leadership.

The board recently appointed new commissioners, and the main remaining need, city leaders say, is to get a director in place.

In light of the city rebuilding its tourism leadership, Combs said she did not want to leave the city at a time when officials are trying to move tourism operations forward.

“There’s a lot of clarifying and definitions and responsibilities to be looked at, and I think both (the board of aldermen and the CPC) are interested in doing that,” Combs said.

Combs expressed urgency in plans being made for the future of tourism in Natchez, particularly the city’s 2017 marketing plan.

The city was fortunate, Combs said, to have a built-in focus in its 2016 campaign with the celebration of the Natchez Tricentennial. A determination needs to be made now, Combs said, about how to move forward.

Combs is planning a meeting for the city’s tourism staff and tourism partners to discuss a 2017 marketing plan.

“I really look forward to getting everyone together … to look at where we are, where do we see ourselves, challenges and what we can strengthen,” she said.