Tourism board member steps down
A new member of the Haywood County Tourism Development is being sought to replace Jen Duerr of The Windover Inn, who said she can no longer be an effective voice given the direction the board is heading.
Duerr initially said her resignation would be effective Dec. 31, 2012, and expressed surprise when she learned last month that her position was already being advertised.
Lynn Collins, the TDA's executive director, said she notified the Haywood County manager's office of the resignation, but didn't mention an effective date.
The county proceeded with the vacancy announcement and asked those interested to submit their application by July 23. To be eligible for the appointment, a person must be an accommodation owner with 20 units or fewer. The appointee will fill out the remainder of Duerr’s term, which will expire Dec. 31, 2014.
David Teague, Haywood County public information officer, said applicants could be interviewed as early as August.
“I was surprised to find out my position was already advertised because I had resigned as of December 2012 unless the other TDA members felt I should be replaced sooner,” Duerr said. “I had not been told by any members or by Lynn that they were replacing me as soon as possible.”
Duerr is leaving the TDA board because of philosophical difference with the direction in which tourism promotion is heading in the county under the current leadership.
“I feel it is not the best use of my time when in most cases, I do not agree with decisions made, and more importantly, the reasons they are made,” she said. “I am one person, and my vote would not change the outcome or results, so I feel my time is better spent elsewhere.”
The specific issues Duerr cited as making her uncomfortable as a business person and board member included the actions to close the Balsam Visitor Center and the discussion concerning a second highway sign on U.S. 23-74 directing travelers to Cherokee.
“I felt the decision regarding the signage for Cherokee was unprofessional and not customer/traveler driven,” Duerr said. ” I have attended annual retreats where ‘experts’ give us advice and the advice has not been taken – until the visitor’s center issue. I had gotten to the point where I felt so frustrated, twice I left committee meetings out of frustration and told other committee members that I felt the meetings were a waste of my time. The second time it happened I sent an email to members and staff apologizing and stating that although I felt I could continue to perform my duties until the end of the calendar year, I felt it was best that I do not serve after that time.”
Duerr said she respected the time and effort all board members put in and said she believed they were making the decisions they felt was best. think they are doing what they feel is best.
“I just can’t agree,” she said.
Collins said there is no precedent for how to fill a vacancy when a resignation is announced so far in advance and said the timing for the new member to join the board is up to the county commissioners. After the confusion, TDA Board Chairwoman Alice Aumen said she spoke with Duerr and both agreed the new appointee would be seated on the board immediately after his or her appointment.
The TDA is a 15-member board that oversees about $1 million in funding collected from a total 4 percent occupancy tax on overnight accommodations in the county. The was established through state legislation and members must fit specific tourism-related categories or be in a specific county government role. Funds are earmarked for tourism promotion.