New Tourism Director Setting Priorities
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Veronica Bosley, former program coordinator for the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center, was introduced as the city's new tourism director on Thursday night at an artist's discussion group at the Beaver Mill.
"We made our decision and we're sticking by it," joked Mayor Richard Alcombright, who with BCRC head Jonathan Secor and Develop North Adams Chairman Brian Miksic selected Bosley from a pool of about 30 candidates. "I think you're going to find her helpful to all of you, helpful in many ways; [she] will continue to drive events in this community and will really involve herself in the arts and culture community and also many other sectors of the community ... I think we need to grow in all sectors."
The town of Florida native is stepping into a post that's become a flashpoint as the city struggles to overcome a $1 million deficit after an override went down in defeat last month. A number of citizens, including a couple of city councilors, have advocated slashing the $51,000 tourism budget — or at least holding off on filling the post for another year.
But Bosley found a warm welcome at Eric Rudd's Beaver Mill as some 40 or so artists and residents lobbed ideas at her for expanding the city's marketing stance and luring more tourists and their dollars to the area.
Bosley said she was flattered to be selected. "It has been really exciting to see the challenges and changes that have happened over the years," said the 2006 Mount Holyoke College graduate. "I'm really hoping to harness that great energy and all of those good vibes and market North Adams for what it really is, which is a great place to live, a great place to own a business and a great place to come and visit."
She worked at Williams College's Sawyer Library for several years and writes a monthly column for the Berkshire Visitors Bureau. Her experience includes organizing and coordinating a number of performances, conferences and dance festivals at Williams; marketing for the Berkshire Museum; managing and marketing the Berkshire Hill Internship Program, part of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts BCRC; and overseeing related websites and social media. She's also appeared in some local plays.
Bosley won't be on the payroll until after July 17 but the group had plenty of ideas to throw at her during the 90-minute discussion that covered topics ranging from passenger rail to artists housing to revamping the website.
Peter May, a local chiropractor, said he could name two dozen things the city could boast about but couldn't understand why it hasn't been "discovered."
"Any town in our economic situation would die for one of them never mind 24," he said. "It's completely dysfunctional that it hasn't happened."
The new tourism director's task will include cultural development and marketing, and building connections locally and statewide to find ways to let the wider world — and the towns next door — know what North Adams has to offer in terms of culture, recreation and natural beauty.
Bosley said the website is one of her priorities, but it's a project limited by the lack of funding. She and the mayor said it should reflect usable information for people visiting, or looking for jobs or to relocate. Attendees said it should have a list of events and suggested using it as a vehicle for "bragging" stories about some the interesting things going on and a place for photographers to display their images of city.
Along with the summer and fall event planning, she'll be working on setting benchmarks to measure progress.
"I imagine it would have to be some sort of combination of people and money spent here. ... which I'm hoping will indicate satisfaction," she said. "I think it's important for us to start keeping track of those things."
Alcombright said it's been difficult to measure the actual impact of tourism or events such as the Solid Sound Festival. "I think the information is there," said local potter Gail Sellers, who suggested retail operations begin tracking traffic and sales as she's been doing to provide Bosley with data. "It's just a matter of putting it in one place."
"Right now we have no baseline ... and we need to be able to measure this," said Miksic. "We need to be able to measure this, economically speaking, to the City Council next year."
Benchmarks may be critical to proving to the council — and skeptical residents — that the position should continue to be funded.
"I fought very hard to keep this in the budget, I think it's one of those positions that can help the community grow, bring revenue to the community and it's what we're shooting for," said Alcombright. Still, he cautioned that Bosley was working without clerical or other support and with a very low budget.
"I'm hoping, really hoping that people don't try dumping stuff that's already being taken care of because we have so many new things we have to do," said Rudd, turning to Bosley to say, "I think you're going to have to say no to some people."