Bikes, Blues & BBQ announces new leadership

Bikes, Blues & BBQ board member Neal Crawford told us back in December that retiring event director Nelson Driver would leave behind some big shoes for the organization to fill.

He was right. Board chair Kenneth Mourton announced new leadership for the rally on Tuesday, and it turns out that Driver’s shoes will be filled with two pairs of feet.

The organization announced that Driver’s duties will be split by two new hires, Ben Handford as President and CEO, and longtime event emcee Joe Giles as new Executive Director.

“Recognizing the expansion and addition of venues will continue the significant economic impact the event has on Northwest Arkansas and the state,” Mourton said, “and the knowledge that the funds generated by BBB are crucial to the many charitable organizations we support, the board of directors determined that the time is right to hire a new level of professional leadership.”

Handford is a native Arkansan from Batesville, and previously served under former-president Bill Clinton as an Advance Officer handling transportation, logistics, security and media. He held similar positions on the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama presidential campaigns in 2008, and he has also worked for the U.S. Small Business Administration, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Discovery Channel.

His primary responsibilities with the rally will include working with local stakeholders, current sponsors, and developing relationships with new sponsors to ensure the rally is self-funding, Mourton said.

“This is a dream job for me,” Handford said. “I just want to keep the rally moving in a positive direction.”

Giles, who has served as a volunteer for the rally since Driver took over as director in 2005, will handle day to day responsibilities.

“Joe has been involved in every aspect of the rally over the last six years and brings not only tremendous organization and team development skills, but also a connection to the Northwest Arkansas community that will be invaluable in assisting Ben in building for the future,” said Jeff Koenig, board member and head of the search committee charged with finding Driver’s replacement.

The two have already begun work planning the 2011 rally, scheduled for September 28 through October 1 in Fayetteville.