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Tourism Development Board under new leadership
Katie Kemezis

The city’s Tourism Development Board is under new leadership.

Members met Monday and elected new officers: Christy Ross as chair, John Partin as vice chair, and Katie Kemezis as secretary. The trio replaces Kemezis, Mayor Ben Newman and Chad McGee, respectively. 

Michael Griffith will remain as treasurer and he reported TDB has $93,859.

Election of officers was required and not an area of contention among the group.

“I’m currently chair,” said Kemezis. “I’m happy to step down as chair. I’m happy to take over as secretary, because I know it’s not your favorite thing. I just have so much going on right now that it’s not prudent for me to continue taking on more and do it justice.” 

Partin was offered the role of chair, but declined.

“I have a fair amount of employment, conference-related duties,” he said. “The only thing that bothers me about being chair is that I’m not necessarily in the best time position to spearhead any projects that are ongoing. That’s my only concern about it. I can vice chair with the best of them.” 

Members also discussed applying for Tourism Enhancement Grant round five. 

“This round-five application should be opening in March,” said Mandy Eller. “It will probably be due in May. We are trying to wrap up round four now with Pepper Branch Park boat ramp.”

Tourism Enhancement Grants are up to $75,000 and require a 10 percent match of $7,500. Grants are from Tennessee Department of Tourism Development and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Develop-ment and designed for cities and counties seeking to invest in local tourism infrastructure assets, such as stages, signage, enhancement to attractions or venues and other resources that target expanding local tourism. 

Eller suggested this next grant be applied for with a focus on improvements at Park Theater. 

“I spoke with Alderman Steve Harvey,” she said. “He’s going to talk to Scott (McCord, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department director). Maybe we can do something for Park Theater. Maybe enhancing the sound. I think there might be some limitations. Maybe some problems with acoustics.”

Other suggestions included improvement to the theater’s lighting system or an addition on the side of the building that would allow for a commercial bay door to be used to move props and equipment in and out of the facility. 

Members must decide on a project prior to applying for the grant. Once that decision is made, permission from McMinnville officials will be sought due to the required grant match. 

The discussion was tabled until March.