Director decision postponed: Theresa Jenkins retires 29 years after opening Welcome Center
by Rachel Miller
July 10, 2013 12:03 AM | 2874 views | 1 1 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Theresa Jenkins packs her belongings at her office at the Visitor’s Bureau, taking down the All-American City Award given to Marietta in 2006. Jenkins retired from the director position in June after 29 years of service.
Theresa Jenkins packs her belongings at her office at the Visitor’s Bureau, taking down the All-American City Award given to Marietta in 2006. Jenkins retired from the director position in June after 29 years of service.
MARIETTA — As Theresa Jenkins, the newly retired director of the Marietta Visitors Bureau, was taking down framed awards and packing boxes in her office, the bureau’s board was seeking legal advice from the city attorney on how to fill the vacant position.

Jenkins stepped down June 28 after 29 years with the organization, and the board planned to announce her replacement Tuesday based on recommendations from the selection committee on the three finalists.

Chairman Dempsey Kirk said the meeting will “most likely be in two weeks,” and any personnel discussion will be in closed session. But, according to the Georgia Open Meetings Act, the vote to approve a candidate must be held in open session.

“We are going to postpone the meeting and the vote to make sure we are in compliance with Open Meetings laws,” Kirk said.

The job calls for a salary range of $45,000 to $60,000, with major qualifications including a degree in marketing, tourism or communications and three years of experience at a visitor’s bureau or in travel marketing.

Welcome mat

Jenkins said she helped to create the director’s position when the Visitors Bureau, then called the Welcome Center, was established as part of Marietta’s 150th anniversary in 1984.

Jenkins was the only employee when the Welcome Center first opened in an old church on Church Street. The building later was torn down to make way for the 120 Loop.

The organization moved to its current home in 1985 at 4 Depot St., which is a block off the Square and faces the railroad tracks. In 1987, the center changed its name to the Marietta Visitor’s Bureau.

“Just opening the Welcome Center didn’t mean people were going to walk through the doors,” Jenkins said.

The organization’s biggest boost was when its contract started as the city’s tourism agency. It receives $197,000 each year from the hotel/motel and auto rental tax.

Jenkins said that funding source allowed the center to really start making marketing plans to spread the word about Marietta across the world.

People from all 50 states and 30 countries have stopped by the center while visiting Marietta.

A visitors’ log from June shows entries of travelers from Brazil and Saudi Arabia.

Special events

Jenkins, who has a bachelor’s degree in history from Auburn University, said the historic city of Marietta “has a lot of interesting stories to tell.”

Jenkins said she has always been fascinated by old buildings, which led her to champion the first tour of privately owned historic homes in 1987.

“I have always looked at (The Marietta Pilgrimage’s Christmas Home Tour) as my baby. It has always had a tender place in my heart,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said she will co-chair the annual tour this year as a volunteer.

The tour is run in partnership with Cobb Landmarks, which means the planning duties and the profits are split.

Jenkins said the Taste of Marietta is the Visitors Bureau’s biggest fundraiser and the largest event organized entirely by the bureau. This summer was the 20th anniversary of the Taste.

Jenkins said the organization raises about $70,000 from all the events throughout the year. But this year’s big summer festivals have been rained out, including the Taste of Marietta, the May-retta Daze Arts and Crafts Festival and the Fourth of July celebration.

Packaging the product

Jenkins said her first responsibility as director was taking an inventory of Marietta’s tourism product, or what sights and sounds the city has to offer.

Jenkins said the Visitors Bureau pulls together marketing promotions for spots that already exist.

For example, last month the Black Heritage Walking Tour brochure was released, which links various sites around downtown with researched information.

Jenkins said another role of the Visitors Bureau is to help create more attractions in Marietta.

Her focus recently has been on recruiting new hotels.

“We need to up our hotel game a little bit in Marietta,” including upgrades to existing ones, she said.

Jenkins said she has seen a transformation in Marietta, while still staying a small authentic Southern town.

When the Visitor’s Bureau opened there were only two annual events on the Square and no museums, Jenkins said.

Now the Square has five museums downtown with over 20 restaurants. And, Jenkins said, she “can’t keep up with all the events.”

Leaving a legacy

Jenkins said the attitude of residents and officials of Marietta is much more embracing of the tourism industry 29 years later.

She said the city understands the economic impact of drawing visitors to the area, and that the Visitors Bureau played a key role in educating about this value.

Marietta honored Jenkins with the key to the city and named June 14 “Theresa Jenkins Day.”

Jenkins said the tourism industry has become more sophisticated.

When she started, it was all about placing ads in magazines months in advance of activities to help readers plan their vacations, Jenkins said.

Now the digital age of Web sites, mobile applications and social media has made that advertising timeline almost instant with families planning weekend trips at the last minute, Jenkins said.

Still, Jenkins said she had “the easiest job in the world selling this city.”

Now Jenkins said she looks forward to spending more time at her vacation home on Lake Martin in Alabama with her husband Lon and visiting her year-old granddaughter in Charlotte, N.C.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
July 10, 2013
The Marietta Visitors Bureau was approached about providing some items for a 4-H Barter Night at a national competition held in Arkansas. 2000 people were there from all over the US. It would have been a good opportunity to advertise Marietta. The response from the Visitors Bureau was, "We don't do things like that". Do they really want people to know about Marietta in other parts of the country???

"Jenkins said" is printed 16 times in this one article. The information was good, but composition poor. Writers for the Marietta Daily Journal should be able to do better.
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