Q&A: New CVB director returns to roots
On Dec. 4, Washington County will have a new voice to represent it. That’s when Deana Clark will step into the role of executive director of the Marietta-Washington Convention and Visitors Bureau. The position was left open when Jeri Knowlton resigned in August to take another job.
Clark, known by many as part of the Ohio Valley Opry, previously worked as the CVB director for Morgan County and is currently the general manager of Burr Oak Lodge.
Clark, who grew up near Bartlett and has lived in the area her whole life, said she can’t wait to start being its biggest cheerleader.
Question: What made you interested in this position?
Answer: I was the tourism director in Morgan County before and I live in such close proximity to Marietta. It’s Marietta. Who wouldn’t be attracted to this position in Marietta and to get to promote the awesome tourist sites and events?
I’m happy with my job at Burr Oak but at the same time I’ve always wanted to get back to CVB work. I really enjoy it. It’s kind of like my first love.
Q: How long did you work for the Morgan County CVB?
A: Six years, until 2013. I’ve been at the lodge since as the general manager.
Q: Is there a tourism aspect to that job?
A: Yes, to some degree. The things I really enjoy, like promoting events and marketing, are overclouded by taking care of 80 employees, though. The building is in my care, we have maintenance issues…One thing I didn’t expect was that I would have no time for event planning and promotion. I find myself in operations instead.
Q: I know that you live near Beverly. Are you in Washington County?
A: I’m two miles outside the county. My kids went to Fort Frye and to Washington State Community College when they were in high school through PSEO. If we go to town, it’s Marietta. If we go Christmas shopping, it’s Marietta, mostly.
Q: Do you have any favorite events in Marietta that you love attending and are looking forward to promoting?
A: The river festivals, I love that. The history of Marietta with Rufus Putnam and all the history that goes along with that. I love the vibrant downtown with the unique shops. I love the theater and the arts. It would be really hard for me to pick my favorite. I love the Valley Gem, the Lafayette…My husband and I have a show, the Ohio Valley Opry, and our home stage is Twin City Opera House in McConnelsville but we had done several shows at the Colony Theatre before it changed names. I was on the advisory committee before for the Peoples Bank Theatre. I have strong ties. Marietta is just our town. When we travel and someone asks where we’re from, we say, “Marietta, Ohio.”
Q: Realizing that you haven’t stepped into the position yet, do you have any goals for when you do?
A: I requested a copy of some research Jeri Knowlton did with the state tourism agency that’s kind of a blueprint of where Marietta is and the best ideas to develop a marketing plan. I want to work with the board and the stakeholders and have a working marketing plan in place so we can get to work generating tourism dollars in the county.
I’m also really excited in the first year–and it will take me a while–but I want to establish a relationship with all the members. I want to get to know their experiences and their products. It will be my job to relate that to visitors.
I’m also excited to collaborate with city council, commissioners, the chamber of commerce and Marietta Main Street to see how we can grow the economy.
Q: In the state and region is this a challenging time for tourism or are things looking pretty bright?
A: I’ve been out of the CVB life and knowing exactly what’s going on for a while, so I shouldn’t speak to that. What I can speak on is hotels. This year, for the corporation I work for it wasn’t a terrible year but it trended a little lower than normal. Usually when that happens, it’s widespread.
Q: How important is the website to our CVB? Do you have any plans to amp it up?
A: It’s definitely vital. Facebook and your website is where folks go to see what’s happening. You have to constantly update and keep up with the newest trends. As far as keeping the content significant, we’ll work on that.
Q: How do you like to spend your free time? Do you stay pretty busy with the opry?
A: My family–my husband and my daughters– are really into music. We have traveled a lot with that. Before I worked for a CVB, our mainstay was music related. My husband has a recording studio and installs sound systems. Our family has traveled on buses, performing all across the country at fairs and churches. We’re still deeply involved in music. Just about everyone plays an instrument. Our show is a mix of country and bluegrass…it’s an Appalachian, family-friendly concert.
Q: Has traveling across the country been beneficial to you in your tourism work?
A: It has been. It really instilled the desire to get into the tourism industry to begin with. The biggest reason I got into this was because I love our area. There’s not a better place in the world to me. I’ve done a lot of traveling and this is a beautiful place to live and raise a family. I love sharing my passion for the area with folks. When I worked for Morgan County, my favorite thing was to go to trade shows and talk to people who had never heard of Morgan County. I love spreading the good news of our area with folks.
Kate York conducted this interview.
¯ Age: 48.
¯ Residence: Morgan County, near Beverly.
¯ Education: Graduate of Federal Hocking High School, completing an administration degree from Parkersburg Christian College.
¯ Family: Husband, Marvin; Four daughters, one stepson, two granddaughters.
Source: Deana Clark.