Marilyn Heifner retires after 22 years with the Fayetteville A&P Commission

Marilyn Heifner (right), executive director of the Fayetteville Advertising & Promotion Commission, speaks after presenting Terra Studios owners Jamie Ulick and Val Gonzalez with a framed page from their feature in the Fayetteville guidebook during a news conference held inside the Arkansas Air Museum.

Photo: Todd Gill, Flyer staff

The Fayetteville Advertising & Promotion Commission is losing its longtime leader.

Marilyn Heifner offered her resignation as executive director on Monday after 22 years with the commission. Her tentative last day of work will be Jan. 31, 2015.

Marilyn Heifner / Courtesy photo

Heifner, 67, said she’s ready to slow down and spend more time with her retired husband and her 93-year-old mother.

“It just felt like it was time,” said Heifner. “But it’s a great time to go out.”

During her tenure, the commission collected nearly $36 million in hotel, motel and restaurant tax dollars. That money was used in part to create or help fund many longstanding events and attractions around the city including the annual Lights of the Ozarks display on the downtown square, the Clinton House Museum near the University of Arkansas campus, the Gary Hampton Softball Complex in west Fayetteville and the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks on the east side of town.

Bonds secured by HMR funds will soon be issued to help expand the Walton Arts Center on Dickson Street and for the beginning stages of a 200-acre regional park in southeast Fayetteville, a plan proposed by Heifner last February.

Heifner said HMR taxes have also supported about 300 special projects including the Fayetteville Roots Festival, The Little Craft Show, TheatreSquared and many more.

“It has been an exciting, fast-paced few years and I have been proud to lead Fayetteville tourism through some fascinating and challenging times,” Heifner said.

Starting as a staff of one, the organization has grown into a full-time staff of 12, two part-time employees, and a varying number of part-time event managers.

“We’re going to have some very big shoes to fill,” said Ching Mong, chairman of the commission.

The executive director of the commmission is responsible for the effective administration of A&P operations, the Town Center, the Clinton House, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau activities which include development, planning, operations, budgeting and personnel management. Heifner’s annual salary is $88,200.

Heifner said she’s confident the organization is stable and sustainable, and that the position will be very attractive for a new executive director.

“Fayetteville’s reputation is established nationally as one of the best practice examples of tourism destination marketing,” she said. “I really think the commission should consider a national talent search because there will be a lot of great candidates out there.”

After accepting Heifner’s resignation, commissioners on Monday voted to form a search committee made up of all seven of the group’s members, along with Heifner and Sandra Bennett, facilities manager at the Town Center.

Group members took turns thanking Heifner for her time and dedication to the city.

“Thank you so much for all you’ve done for Fayetteville,” Commissioner Tim Freeman said to Heifner. “Thank you for promoting and helping the city grow, and for helping make Fayetteville what it is.”

Heifner said she’d be happy to help with the search for her replacement, and that she’s willing to stay on the job after Jan. 31 if the search to fill the position is still ongoing.

“It has been a great pleasure to promote Fayetteville, a city that I love,” Heifner said. “I leave behind a legacy that I am immensely proud of and look forward to a new chapter in my life.”