With a new approved job description in hand, the Fort Smith Advertising and Promotion Commission is ready to begin what could be a two months or longer search for a new executive director.
The commission approved the new job description as well as allowing Rick Lolley, director of human resources for the City of Fort Smith, to engage the help of a firm to find potential candidates for the position.
Former executive director Claude Legris retired July 10. Carolyn Joyce, group sales travel manager for the Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau, is the interim executive director. The commission agreed at a meeting Tuesday (July 28) that Lolley could proceed with having SearchWide Global begin advertising and recruiting for the executive director position contingent on two things: Lolley can negotiate a reasonable rate with SearchWide Global and the firm receives a favorable recommendation from the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.
SearchWide Global is an executive recruitment firm primarily for companies in the travel, tourism, hospitality, convention, trade association, venue management and experiential marketing industries based in Minnesota, according to its website. No rate was indicated for the service at Tuesday’s meeting.
Lolley said it would take a couple of weeks to negotiate a contract with the firm and then another few weeks for SearchWide Global to begin the process of advertising and recruitment. He said it likely would be at least six weeks to two months before the city would receive any candidates.
The executive director of the A&P is not a city position, but rather an employee of the A&P Commission, but the person in the position will work closely with the city, Commissioner and City Director Robyn Dawson has said.
Before the commission could start the search, commissioners had to approve a new job description for the position, which had not been updated since 2000. The new description says the executive director “administers all efforts to advertise and promote the city of Fort Smith and the surrounding areas, to benefit the tourism and travel industry and economic vitality of the city, region and state.” The executive director will also oversee the Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Fort Smith Convention Center.
The city of Fort Smith is in contract negotiations with Oak View Group (OVG) to manage the Fort Smith Convention Center. Though OVG has Fort Smith listed on its website as one of the convention centers it manages, no contract has yet been signed. Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken said City Attorney Jerry Canfield is reviewing OVG’s proposed contract. The city then will provide “comments, desires and thoughts,” he said. Once the negotiation process is completed, and there is a final contract, the Board of Directors will need to review and approve it, Geffken said.
“Having a company manage the Convention Center is a big step because the city and A&P have operated it for so long,” Geffken said.
Even if the OVG manages the convention center, the A&P executive director will need to work with them on matters regarding the center, the commission said. Commissioner Storm Nolan said the person hired to be the new executive director needs to have experience in rebranding a community and working with advertising agencies and marketing firms.
“Our No. 1 goal is to increase tourism to Fort Smith. And if that is our goal… we should make that high on the list,” Nolan said, noting that increasing travel and tourism to Fort Smith needs to be a top responsibility of the position.
The commission discussed the possibility of coming up with a new logo and brand for the city that could be used to help increase tourism. Jarred Rego, who will join the Fort Smith Board of Directors as the director for Ward 1 in January, addressed the commission, saying they might want to consider community feedback about a brand for the city.
“We need to have a conversation about what do we want the brand to be, what foot do we want to put forward,” Rego said.
Candidates for the executive director position must have a bachelor’s degree in an associated field of study; three or more years previous general work experience to include a knowledge of fiscal accounting and people management; special emphasis on marketing, advertising and public relations; working grasp of technological and marketplace trends; and ability to make statewide and nationwide contacts.
The annual salary range for the position is $84,822 to $127,212, Lolley said. At the time of his retirement, Legris was earning $96,646.68 per year, Geffken said.