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September 5, 2012

County Director of Tourism quits

Officials working to complete projects underway

WHITLEY CITY —  The McCreary County Tourist Commission was prepared to fill two vacant seats during their monthly meeting last Tuesday but found they could accomplish little else in the way of regular business.

      Earlier in the day, county tourism director Ginger McCartt informed Judge-Executive Doug Stephens that she no longer wished to continue in the position she had held for more than two years. Though Judge Stephens urged McCartt to “sleep on it,” it was Deputy Judge Andrew Powell who greeted commissioners and guests when the meeting convened at 3:30 p.m.

    Powell apologized to the attendees, noting that no reports or even an agenda had been prepared. While he commended McCartt on her efforts to market trails and raise the county’s profile in adventure racing, the deputy judge indicated that community conflicts contributed to her decision.

    “I think it’s unfortunate to have continued disarray in such a small community where the economy is so fragile,” Powell said. “We still let our personality differences hold us back. I challenge everyone — whether they’re from Pine Knot, Stearns or Parkers Lake — to put their differences aside and help tourism grow throughout the county.”

    With McCartt’s fate still in question, Powell suggested the board approve an emergency stabilization motion to allow board members to act in the director’s stead. He offered the assistance of newly-hired Economic Development Director Susan Stephens, who was present at the meeting and agreed to help.

    Michelle King, acting chair of the commission, consented to work on a close-out report due Friday for an Appalachian Regional Commission grant which would reimburse the county for the recently completed “Get Outside Yourself” trail identification project.

    The commission closed official business with the approval of Katherine Strunk (restaurant representative) and Peg Taylor (lodging representative) as prospective members to be officially appointed by McCreary County Fiscal Court on September 10. The court approved Jim Cmolik last month to represent the Judge’s Office.

    The three replace Becki Egnew, Ted Coffey and Barbara Edwards — each of whom resigned their seats on the board in June. The new members join King, Wanda Worley, Jesse Kidd and Nina Bradley.

    Cmolik, who is involved in several community projects through Hills and Hollers Ministries, expressed his hope that local tourism interests can work together as a team.

    “Until we have health within McCreary County, we cannot build alliances with counties outside,” he said. “It may sound insurmountable but the God I serve can surmount anything.”

    Mindful of that sentiment, officials spent the remainder of the week reaching out to other communities.

    Powell led a five-member delegation joining a TOUR SEKY trip to Damascus, Virginia, on Wednesday morning. Damascus serves as one of the models for Kentucky’s new Trail Town program, from which Stearns is seeking certification.

    McCartt had been slated to go on the trip, but by Wednesday afternoon, her resignation was official.

    Judge Stephens — who was attending a National Park Service meeting at Bandy Creek — commended McCartt’s enthusiasm and expressed regret that she would not be continuing. He told the Record that while it may be instinctive to want a new director in place quickly, the commission and fiscal court should take time during this hiring process.

    “We need to find the right person, someone outgoing who works well with the public,” he said.

    The judge noted that this is an opportune time for tourism growth in the county. With NPS seeking public input on how to improve access to the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, he presented suggestions for road improve-ments connecting Kentucky and Tennessee and increased access to the mouth of Bear Creek.

    Stearns District Ranger Tim Reed of the U.S. Forest Service was also present to offer ideas on how the two federal agencies could work together on the Trail Town project. Several operators of area tourism businesses were also in attendance, with one advocating the development of horse trail connecting Yamacraw to Rugby. Park officials had apparently planned the trail years ago but later shelved it.

 

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