Natchez aldermen ponder how to appoint next tourism director
from Staff Reports - NEWS
December 6, 2016 - ListenUpYall.com
By John Mott Coffey
NATCHEZ, Miss. – City aldermen are undecided on whether to give up their power to appoint Natchez’ next tourism director and turn it over to the Convention Promotion Commission.
Mayor Darryl Grennell on Monday proposed letting the commission decide who to hire as he tries to reform the city’s tourism structure that’s been rocked this past year by infighting and confusion. Clashes emerged about who’s in charge and how city tourism funds are being managed.
“All I’m trying to do is to prevent history from repeating itself,” said Grennell, who took office in July to replace former mayor Butch Brown.
Brown and the Board of Aldermen in April ousted then-tourism director Kevin Kirby and the six-member Convention Promotion Commission to end their months of bickering about what management authority Kirby had and what power the CPC can exert overseeing Natchez’ efforts to attract tourists and conventions.
This move to wipe the slate clean gave the mayor and aldermen an opportunity to rethink and revamp how the city’s tourism and convention programs are managed.
Aldermen have replenished the CPC with six new members and have scheduled interviews with three tourism director candidates later this month.
While aldermen said Monday they welcome CPC members being involved in screening the candidates, they indicated a reluctance to give up their power to decide who to hire.
State law does give the Natchez Convention Promotion Commission -- an autonomous municipal agency -- control over the expenditure of Natchez tourism tax revenues to market the city. However, said Alderman Dan Dillard, there are other city tourism-related revenues the commission is not responsible for.
“If you follow the money, it goes back to the city,” said Dillard, who pointed, as an example, to state funds provided to the Natchez Visitors Reception Center that the Board of Aldermen and mayor are in charge of.
As proposed by Grennell -- with the Convention Promotion Commission being the tourism director’s boss -- aldermen would continue to appoint the CPC members, “but the director should be accountable to the CPC rather than the Board of Aldermen,” he said.
Grennell said he hopes the six aldermen will decide at their next meeting Dec. 13 on who’ll appoint the next tourism director as they and the commission try to improve the city’s tourism organization and clarify its various duties.
“All are important because we need to give a charge to the person we hire,” Grennell said.
Another major player in running the city’s tourism-convention business is New Orleans Hotel Consultants, the Warren Reuther-run company that has a city contract to manage the Natchez Convention Center. While Grennell’s proposed tourism reorganization plan presented Monday originally had the CPC in charge of the convention center, he suggested that component be taken out. It can be reconsidered next year, when the contract with Reuther’s company expires. It owns the Natchez Grand Hotel by the convention center.