VCVB official loses her job; budget cited

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 11, 2003

[12/11/03]The director of tourism and films for the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau lost her job of six months Wednesday when board members, citing budget reasons, eliminated the slot.

The bureau had hired Lynn Foley in July to replace Al Elmore who left the post earlier this year to take a job with the Division of Tourism of the Mississippi Development Authority.

Foley came to Vicksburg from New Orleans, where she worked for a number of companies including Doubletree and Wyndham hotels and the Brennan Family and Kimpton Restaurant Groups. She began her career in the hospitality industry in Vicksburg more than 20 years ago.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“The board made this decision in the best interest of the board and that is the pursuit of an executive director,” Foley said after the meeting. She noted the bureau’s budget does not allow the employment of people in both positions at this time.

In July, Lenore Barkley, who had been executive director of the bureau for 18 years, announced she was retiring as of Sept. 1 and was forming Kudzu Public Relations. She also said she would work with the bureau to handle travel writers for a year beginning Nov. 1.

Foley said she will continue to handle a book-signing scheduled for this weekend and some media interviews on her own. After that, she said, she will be looking for another job.

“We’ve been without an executive director for several months now,” said board member Bobby Bailess at the special meeting. “To further that process of getting an executive director … and because of the budgetary shortfalls we’ve got, almost some $90,000 less this year than we had last year … because of the problem with the state matching funds (for 2004),” Bailess said in introducing his motion.

He said the motion would put the bureau in the position of being able to afford an executive director. Seven of 11 members were present and voted for the motion.

At its Dec. 4 regular meeting, the board held an hour-long executive session to “discuss a personnel matter” after which the board voted to recess its meeting until Wednesday. Following the meeting, members of the board reportedly met privately with Foley.

Also Wednesday, the board approved its budget for 2004 that reflected the reduction in salaries. The 2004 budget estimates the bureau will receive as its only income $780,747 from the Mississippi Tax Commission from the 1 percent sales tax added to all hotel and motel room rentals and on all sales restaurants and lounges in Warren County.

There were no matching funds listed from the state which the board has received to help with advertising in the past. The bureau received $96,976 in state matching funds for this year, but did not apply before the Nov. 1 deadline for the coming year after learning earlier applicants had tapped all available funds.

The VCVB operates on a calendar-year budget and lists 2004 expenses as $816,707, essentially the same as this year’s $816,118.

Because of the loss of state matching funds, the 2004 budget projects a deficit of $35,960 to be funded from this year’s reserves.

For the coming year, salaries were cut from $216,034 to $147,300 and wages for hourly employees were increased from $33,428 to $39,181.

The 2004 budget also showed changes in the advertising budget. The amount for the purchase of advertising space went from $108,713 to $141,315; outdoor advertising went from $64,603 to $43,932; and printing went from $80,565 to $96,999.

The budget also showed for the first time a line item of $25,000 for television advertising in a campaign is shared with the Vicksburg Warren County Community Alliance.

One other change was the $7,500 paid to Barkley for her services as Kudzu Public Relations for November and December 2003 and $37,500 in 2004.