The Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission this week selected a new executive director.
Commissioners on Monday voted unanimously to offer the position to Kym Hughes, former executive director of tourism and hospitality for the city of Sandy Springs, Georgia.
Hughes will replace Marilyn Heifner, who announced plans in September to retire on Jan. 31 after 22 years with the commission.
“I understand that it will be a big order to fill Marilyn’s shoes,” said Hughes, “but she also has established a solid foundation for her successor.”
The executive director of the commmission is responsible for the effective administration of A&P operations, the Town Center, the Clinton House Museum, and the Fayetteville Convention and Visitors Bureau activities which include development, planning, operations, budgeting and personnel management. The commission paid Heifner an annual salary of $88,200.
Commissioners agreed to offer Hughes a starting salary of $85,000, plus $5,000 in moving expenses, and a standard benefit package.
Hughes’ annual salary was $93,000 in Sandy Springs where she helped launch the city’s convention and visitors bureau.
She was one of over 50 applicants for the position, and was one of three finalists interviewed by commissioners last week. Other finalists were Gary A. Pearce, Jr., former director of operations/deputy director at the Kissimmee Florida Convention & Visitors Bureau; and John Robert (J.R.) Shaw, senior vice president of tourism at the Washington County (Pennsylvania) Chamber of Commerce.
Hughes is a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a bachelor of arts in communications with an emphasis in advertising, and a bachelor of arts in psychology.
She has led the Sandy Springs agency since 2007. Before that, she served in various tourism roles in several other cities across Georgia. She has over eight years of management and budgeting experience, including an executive director position at the Statesboro convention and visitors bureau.
Hughes said she can’t wait to get started in Fayetteville.
“I have longed for a beautiful downtown all the years that I represented Sandy Springs,” Hughes said. “Coming from lovely Georgia cities with vibrant downtowns like Valdosta, Athens and Statesboro, I miss having that nugget to offer as an amenity, and to promote.”
Hughes said she has a gift of being able to move to a new community and tell the story of its assets with a fresh, new eye and sharing those stories with potential visitors.
“Every destination has something to offer, but far too often the largest asset, which are the people, is overlooked,” said Hughes in a cover letter accompanying her resume.
She said in a recent visit to Fayetteville, she was surprised to find so many residents who are great ambassadors to the city.
“Many of the locals I chatted with asked me where I was from and what brought me to town,” said Hughes. “That is very unusual. I have traveled to numerous meetings, conferences and trade shows all over the U.S. and not even a handful of the hotel and restaurant staff or residents ever asked. That is a testament to the hospitality industry, and the kind of community I want to work for.”
Hughes said she understands the importance of balancing the lure of college football with travel and tourism.
“While Valdosta and Statesboro had a dedicated football fellowship, the Georgia Bulldogs were always a hotel sellout on home game weekends,” said Hughes.
She said she was relieved to find a thriving artist community in Fayetteville.
“As a tourism professional, I cannot begin to count the cities that tout themselves as a huge art community,” Hughes said. “Fayetteville is the real art deal. If the hand-made Alpaca scarves and artists at the Farmers’ Market doesn’t convince you, the Walton Arts Center performances and the abundant studios and galleries should.”
Hughes mentioned several ideas she has for increasing tourism in Fayetteville, including expanded promotion of the Fayetteville Ale Trail, foodie-themed and other culinary-inspired events in public parks, and partnerships that capitalize on tourism draws in other cities across the region.
“My goal is to bring together the local community, its assets and its organizations to propel tourism and draw business into those entities.”