December 14, 2010 10:51:00 AM
Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director and CEO James Tsismanakis is leaving for bigger things, moving on to the DeKalb County, Ga., Convention and Visitors Bureau.
DeKalb County includes a chunk of Atlanta, several colleges, Stone Mountain and a population of more than 680,000. Tsismanakis will be heading up a bigger staff and budget. The move is a much-deserved step up.
The low-key Tsismanakis has left a large footprint on Columbus in his five years here. His stewardship of the Convention and Visitors Bureau has been fruitful.
Among the projects that Tsismanakis leaves behind is a renovated Tennessee Williams Home and a new CVB headquarters, now under construction. His legacy will be better understood as the block containing the Williams home and the Mark Castleberry/Ronnie West-developed condominium and office complex takes shape in the coming months.
He has pushed the CVB''s primary mission well -- advertising and touting Columbus as a tourism destination. The CVB manages $1.2 million in annual revenue from a 2-percent tax on food and beverages in the city and county. The number continues to grow each year. Much of this money goes toward marketing Columbus and Lowndes County for reunions, conferences, fishing tournaments, heritage tours and other events.
Others have noticed Tsismanakis'' work. In 2009, the CVB was recognized as the best tourism agency in the state by the Mississippi Tourism Association. That award followed a national honor in 2008 -- the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Columbus one of its national Dozen Distinctive Destinations. These awards help bring Columbus into the national spotlight for visitors.
Tsismanakis'' office is also charged with booking the Trotter Convention Center, and includes the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation under its wing (the organization that brings us Pilgrimage and other events).
Tsismanakis has had to negotiate the spats that erupted, political and otherwise, among our community leaders, especially during the past year. He''s kept his cool as his organization was handed the tab for a third of the bill for renovation of the old Highway 82 river bridge into a pedestrian plaza. The Columbus-Lowndes Development Link declared war on the CVB when its share of tourism funding was cut. More drama has erupted concerning CVB board appointments from the county. Often, our Columbus leaders fight like siblings. (Sometimes, they actually are siblings.)
We thank Tsismanakis for his service and moving Columbus forward.
Tsismanakis says that he was recruited by DeKalb County, and his departure has nothing to do with these or any other spats. But his move has significant timing. The city and county are forming a committee to rewrite the outdated ordinance that governs the CVB. A strong tourism bureau head is needed to advocate for the board during this process.
As this ordinance is rewritten, and the tourism board launches a search for a new director, we urge our leaders to keep the CVB independent and free of political pressure. We also urge them to find a savvy leader with vision and an independent spirit who can build on the impressive legacy Tsismanakis leaves behind.
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