Visitors Bureau director selection delayed
by Rachel Miller
July 31, 2013 12:08 AM | 4730 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Katie Peterson
Katie Peterson
Mary Koronkowski
Mary Koronkowski
MARIETTA — The director’s slot for the Marietta Visitors Bureau will be vacant for at least another two weeks as the organization’s board grapples with requirements under Georgia’s open records laws.

A meeting Tuesday by the selection committee, which was supposed to result in a recommendation to the board, was canceled and rescheduled, according to board President Dempsey Kirk.

Kirk said the decision was “an overabundance of caution” to ensure the bureau gives proper notice to the public of the meeting. The committee will now meet Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Visitors Bureau at 4 Depot St., a block off the Square along the railroad tracks.

The committee will meet privately, closing the discussion to the public under the “personnel” exemption to the state’s Open Meetings Act, Kirk said.

But, under the same act, the committee must publicize its recommendation. The board must wait at least 14 days before voting on whether to accept the recommendation.

In a July 17 MDJ Letter to the Editor, Kee Carlisle, chairman of the city’s Vision 20/20 Committee, criticized closed-door approaches by an organization that is slated to receive $197,500 in tourism grants from the city in 2013, an amount that makes up 75 percent of the bureau’s budget.

The director position comes with a salary of $45,000 to $60,000. The selection committee narrowed down the field to three applicants, but one has since dropped out, Kirk said.

The two finalists are Katie Peterson, who has worked as the bureau’s marketing and public relations manager for the past year, and Mary Koronkowski, who is the gallery manager for dk Gallery on the Square, a block away from the bureau’s office.

New direction

Theresa Jenkins retired June 28 from the Visitors Bureau after 29 years with the organization and has been criticized for trying to hand pick her successor.

Peterson, who has a Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing, said there is already success built into the bureau and it is the organization’s goal to enhance the experience of visitors.

The mission of the Visitors Bureau is to “promote Marietta as a tourism destination with an emphasis on heritage and cultural tourism,” and a focus on overnight travelers.

Koronkowski said she wants to work with the board on how to spend money to attract residents in surrounding communities to the Square. She said cross promotions between the bureau and other organizations and businesses that offer events and attractions could produce a constant influx of people from east Cobb and west Cobb.

“Their success is our success,” said Koronkowski, who has a bachelor’s degree in education marketing and a master’s degree in public relations.

Koronkowski said she also wants to work with the board on pinpointing Marietta’s target audience and how to reach new markets. One idea is to bring in regional gymnastic and cheerleading competitions, as well as baseball tournaments: events that involve young families that stay in the community.

She also promotes starting a jazz festival to highlight Marietta schools’ music programs, as well as other local performers.

“There is lots and lots of talent in Marietta,” Koronkowski said.

At the center

While working at the bureau, Peterson has coordinated the Taste of Marietta and served on the First Friday Art Walk committee. Before this position, she was the sales and marketing coordinator for the Peachtree City Convention and Visitors Bureau and also worked for the Lawrenceville Tourism and Trade Association.

Peterson said her work as director would be to “up the technology game,” provide audio tours for Civil War sites and create a mobile app for the Taste of Marietta festival.

Georgia offers so much, from the mountains to the beach, a large metropolis in Atlanta and small southern towns on the outskirts, but “Marietta can hold its own and compete,” Peterson said.

People are choosing Marietta as their destination because of the charming town center, historic Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park and Six Flags White Water between Cobb Parkway and Interstate 75, Peterson said.

She added that even the Big Chicken is a talking point for visitors thinking about stopping in town.

Koronkowski highlights her ability to lead a small team and build rapport with vendors and local businesses, which was her focus as the special events coordinator on the Downtown Norfolk Council in Virginia.

Although Koronkowski said the role of director is about collaboration, she wants to give the bureau “structure and help it come to life.”

Seven years ago, while serving as the public relations director for the Marietta Museum of History, she walked into the Visitors Bureau and knew she wanted to be part of the organization.

“I have always had my eye on the office ever since I went in,” Koronkowski said.

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