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By MARK EVANS
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
Not surprisingly, the topic of hiring a new tourism director came up at the Aug. 22 joint tourism meeting.
While filing the position was not on the agenda for the combined Tourism Tax Commission-Tourism Advisory Council meeting at the temporary city hall, it became a topic of discussion once the budget portion of the agenda was reached. Tanalyn Dollar’s recent resignation was the fourth one for the position since November 2019. The topic had also been debated at the previous week’s board of aldermen budget workshop.
Ward 3 Alderman Joe Steiger asked what “some of the hurdles” have been with keeping the position filled.
“Are we doing enough to make this position successful, going forward?” He asked.
He also asked whether the city does exit interviews with employees who leave.
“Sometimes you get some valuable information from somebody that’s leaving your team,” he said.
“She gave one to the Herald,” Dena Kreitler replied, referring to Dollar’s comments that she did not feel she had the city’s support, when she announced her resignation.
Steiger wondered whether the city was “doing enough to set this person up for success or are we kind of repeating some of the same pitfalls that we had tonight?”
“We covered one of them, which is the special assistant,” City Administrator Happy Welch said. “That was one. We heard from Toby [Carrig] and Jeff [Wix] and also Tanalyn, same thing.”
Steiger said he wants to give the director “all the tools and all the support we can.”
Chairman Geoff Giglierano said one problem is the lack of a marketing plan.
“That’s what’s what the tourism director is, a marketing director,” Giglierano said. “Let’s be honest.”
Welch replied that Dollar had applied for a matching grant to have a marketing plan put together and that $20,000 is dedicated to that in the budget.
They agreed getting that done would be a priority.
Some discussion took place on whether the marketing plan should wait on a new tourism director being in place or whether one should be ready to go when the new person assumes duties.
Welch said advertising for the tourism director position would begin this week, first in the Herald, and then on various websites.
“We’re kind of doing it in stages,” he said. “We’re doing it locally first. There might be somebody who’s qualified to do this.”
The pay scale will be $54,000 to $60,000 although the cap would be $74,000.
The question of requiring the director to live in town also came up.
“That was one of the things I heard the most, that they were never visible,” Kreitler said. “I think you have to have somebody in town. You have to have somebody here five days a week, Monday through Friday.”
“With the prospect of having a plan in place early on in the person’s tenure would make a huge difference not only for that person, but for all of us, in being able to access how that person is doing,” Giglierano said.
Giglierano praised Welch for his work with the past two directors.
“The last couple of people, Happy did really remarkable work in stepping in and trying to make things work,” he said. “Let’s be honest, you’re the city manager; you’ve got other things to do. So, having somebody who can hit the ground running, with some guidance and some framework and set of goals, I think would be more productive for everyone.”
Jim Ferguson asked whether the same job description is being used as last time.
“What’s going to be different about the next person that is hired?” He asked.
Welch pointed out that Dollar’s departure had been voluntary, noting that, “She left us.”
Ferguson asked whether he had been “happy with what she was doing.”
Welch declined to comment on Dollar’s performance, noting that it fell within personnel evaluation, which should be done in closed session.
The topic returned to the on site working versus remote working.
“My preference would be five days a week,” Kreitler said. “You have to have somebody here, in those shops and the business and the restaurants, working with the owners and the city and the community to put this plan into place and execute it.”
“I think we should keep an open mind to some working from home,” Laura Oliver said. “I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary [to be in the office every day]. The right person could make it work.”
Kreitler stressed that, “They have to have a presence.”
“A big part of this is not just making rounds everyday, seeing the same people downtown,” Patrick Fahey said. “It is this projection of how are we going to attract people from St. Louis, how are we going to know what in the market up in St. Louis. You can’t spend all of your time in Ste. Genevieve. So, I think it’s got to be a combination of somebody who has vision, contacts, an ability to connect with the areas we want to draw people from, plus have the visibility here.”
“But the first part of that is getting to know your business and how you’re going to promote them to those outside people in St. Louis,” Kreitler said.
A list of Ste. Genevieve “strengths” has been compiled. Giglierano said members could still submit input for it.
“This is something I wish we had done for some of the other people, to help them understand what we have here and that it’s not just another place with old houses,” Giglierano said. “It’s not just another architectural petting zoo.”
He added that there is “nothing quite like it.”
WORKING WITH THE COUNTY
After the discussion of the tourism director, and approval of the fiscal year 2024 budget, Steiger brought up the idea of working with the county to see about expanding the city’s 2% “bed tax” on hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and airbnb establishments, to be county-wide.
“It only brings in roughly about $30 grand a year,” he said. “I think it might be time to consider taking a proposal to the county commissioners and sending that bed tax county-wide. They want something in their hands, tangible. They would like some type of proposal.”
He said the county could like to get it on the November ballot, although there may not be enough time for that.
Welch said he wasn’t sure if there will be a municipal or county election in November this year.
Steiger said that, according to county Assessor Linda Wagner, there are 29 lodging establishments in the city and about 30 in the county. Most of those are airbnb establishments.
“It would be a crapshoot to try to say how much revenue that would generate,” Steiger said. He added that two of the county commissioners he spoke to were “enthusiastic about it.”
He added that to get it passed, they would have to make it perfectly clear to voters that the tax would only be on visitors staying in those establishments, not on residents.
A partnership with the county would also be needed. At some point, a joint Convention Visitors Bureau (CVB) could be set up.
At the close of the meeting, chairman Giglierano, who serves as executive director for French Colonial America (FCA) said that due to some restructuring within the FCA, he would no longer be in position to serve as a board member. The others thanked him for his service.