Branson's Presley denied reappiontment to Missouri Tourism Panel

ST. CHARLES, Mo. | More than 250 tourism professionals gathered here this week for the 38th annual Governor's Conference on Tourism - and to wonder who the new state tourism director will be.

At the three-day conference on industry issues, which wraps up today, Missouri Travel Council President Gary Figgins said industry priorities next year would include pressing state lawmakers to push back the first day of public school.

Figgins said the policy change would extend the summer travel season for families and allow teenage workers to remain on the job longer. He said a recent study found 'a $1 million-a-day economic impact on the state from lost travelers alone.'

Those attending the conference also anxiously awaited this morning's meeting of the Missouri Tourism Commission. An impasse with the governor's office has emerged over the hiring of a new director of the state's Tourism Division, which oversees an annual budget of $18 million, spent mostly on advertising Missouri's visitor attractions.

Republican Gov. Matt Blunt last week appeared to be pushing former GOP state Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer for the post after the commission had offered the $74,000-a-year job to a candidate from another state who has extensive tourism experience. That person's name has not been released.

The governor stalled the hiring process and then declined to reappoint Raeanne Presley of Branson to the 10-member panel. He replaced her with a campaign contributor. Presley opposed Luetkemeyer, a banker and insurance agent who has no tourism industry experience.

The commission could choose a compromise candidate or even put off the decision. A delay wouldn't disappoint some industry insiders.

Peter Herschend, a key owner of Herschend Family Entertainment, which operates Silver Dollar City in Branson and other attractions, said Wednesday that he had met with the governor.

'There's no need to rush to judgment,' Herschend said. 'We need to let some of the heat go out of this controversy.'

Tourism awards

Here are some of the awards announced at the conference:

St. Joseph tourism director Marci Bennett was inducted into the Missouri Tourism Hall of Fame. Bennett, also executive director of the Missouri Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus, was praised for her 'commitment to the industry beyond personal gain' and for having 'a lasting impression on the economy and welfare of the state.'

Singer Sheryl Crow was recognized for tourism commercials for her hometown of Kennett, Mo., and for the state.

Joplin's tourism agency was recognized for its marketing campaign built around a groundhog named Boomer.

Dale Amick, Missouri Travel Council lobbyist; Terry Ramsey, director of the Bushwhacker Museum in Nevada, Mo.; and Gary Figgins, publisher of the quarterly Show Me Missouri travel magazine, were recognized for contributions to the industry.

Source: KC STAR

Historical Note:
The Kansas City star was originally published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints (aka the Mormons). The name of the publication was "The Morning and Evening Star".