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October 29, 2012

Tourism remains priority for Cullman city officials

CULLMAN — The City of Cullman re-upped its $2,800 annual contract with the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce this week — but if things go as planned — city officials may be a lot more involved with the agency in the coming months.

The city council has been talking for months about the need for a renewed focus on tourism, be it a division of the chamber or of the city itself.

Mayor Max Townson said his office remains in contact with the chamber about the initiative, but it still waiting to see how the search for a new director concludes in the coming months to make a final decision on what to do next.

Former chamber president Kirk Mancer resigned for a similar position in another community a few months ago, and interim president Leah Bolin has been managing the day-to-day operations ever since.

“We’re still waiting to see who they hire to see which path we’ll take on the topic of a tourism director,” Townson said. “I feel like they’re willing to work with us now and see what needs to be done, and I think they might go along with us. Then we could up our funding and work through their office. I think we’re all on the same page, and they want to see someone from the chamber get heavily involved in tourism.”

Ideally, Townson said he hopes the tourism director can work with several local agencies to promote the city and county as a whole around the southeast.

“We want someone to work with the downtown merchants, to work with [city parks director] John Hunt, the Oktoberfest committee and really promote the city and county in everything from education to arts,” he said. “We’re working to find a way to brand Cullman, be it with the Bass Hall of Fame or the Sara Evans concert [festival]. We have to really get the word out about everything we have going on.”

When reached Friday, chamber chair Charlie NeSmith didn’t offer any specifics on the search for a permanent president — but did say the process is going well. He hopes to fill the position by the end of November.

“There are just a lot of moving parts and right now we’re trying to get input from several different entities,” NeSmith said.

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