New Tourism Director Setting Priorities
New tourism director Veronica Bosley and Mayor Richard Alcombright wait to be introduced by Eric Rudd at the Beaver Mill.
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.
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 has roots in the arts community here.
"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."
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."
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Tourism Director Being Introduced This Week
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is expected to have a new tourism director named by Thursday.
Mayor Richard Alcombright confirmed on Tuesday that a selection had been made but some details were still being worked out before he felt comfortable in making a public announcement.
"I think everybody will be excited," he said. "I think we made a good choice."
The new director of tourism and community events will be introduced at a "First Thursday" discussion group with artists at the Beaver Mill. The monthly evening sessions have been held by Eric Rudd and other artists at the Beaver Mill for some time.
Alcombright said the timing for the session dovetailed with the expectation that a new director would be hired and resulted with Rudd's invitation to attend.
Area artists and the general public are invited as well. The talk will be held on the first floor of Frog Lotus Yoga Studio from 6:30 to 8; use the center front entrance. Light refreshments will be served.
Rudd's press release on the evening stated "This discussion will give the artist-community a chance to not only hear ideas from the new director, but also to hear ideas and concerns from the community."
The director's job has been vacant since the departure of Rod Bunt this past March. Some 30 or so applications were submitted and the finalists narrowed down to a handful.
The post itself has become controversial as the city struggled with a $1 million deficit. Last month, the City Council debated tossing out the entire tourism department (the director and some cash for events) before approving the budget in its entirety.
Some may have expected the job to be back on the chopping block after the defeat of a controversial $1.2 million override to fund the deficit but the mayor says he'll fight to keep the post.
"This will be in Plan B," he said. "I'm going to leave that in the budget ... I am standing by this."
The mayor sees the director's post as a revenue generator, one that will agressively market the city and seek out grants. The goal is for the new director to raise his or her own salary through grants or increases in revenue by luring tourists and new business to the city.
A salary of $34,186 has been budgeted but the total line item for the tourism department has been cut $10,000 from this year.
Alcombright said he planned to submit a revised 2012 budget on July 26. "We cut from the city and the school side $900,000 out of the initial document we came up with in March and April," he said. "The deficit is now about $477,000 ... We're working to get it down."
One bright spot is the recently passed state budget that holds out hope of restoring some $65 million in local aid cuts. That's dependent on how the state's books look; it could be October before municipalities get firm numbers.
"We could pick up a quarter of a million ... This could be a real shot in an arm," said the mayor.
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Morocco Retiring to Ease Budget Crunch
Finance Committee members Alan Marden, Chairman Michael Bloom and David Bond reviewed the fiscal 2012 budget with Mayor Richard Alcombright and department heads. Also in attendance were Councilors Marie Harpin, David Lamarre, Michael Boland, Lisa Blackmer and President Ronald Boucher.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco will retire at the end of the fiscal year to "take pressure of the budget" it was announced at Wednesday's Finance Committee meeting.
The disclosure came during discussion of the Public Safety Department's budget in which the commissioner's salary was slashed to $21,000.
"He knows the plight we're in ... he will be retiring at the end of the fiscal year," said Mayor Richard Alcombright, who added that the commissioner had approached him about retiring within the last week or so. "I want to keep the commissioner on for at least six months to work on the transition, then he can offload the things he does to other people."
Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco will stay on for six months to help the department transition. He said it would be difficult for the fire and police directors to take over his duties.
The Department of Public Works union is also cognizant of the tough times, said Alcombright. "They voted as a body to forgo their fiscal 2012 raise."
Union members were slated to get 1 percent (they received a 1 percent retroactive raise for this year), which the mayor figured would be a savings of around $7,500.
"These are people who unfortunately do not make a lot of money," Alcombright said. "They do a lot for the city. It makes a difference if the average guy made $300 a year [with the raise]; if the 2 1/2 override passes, they're probably going to get hit with $250."
The mayor halted contract negotiations with some of the other unions; he said the teachers, who have settled, have indicated they may reconsider their contract as well.
The City Council submitted a home-rule petition to the Legislature last year to extend Morocco's tenure two years past his mandated retirement age. At the time, city officials were considering whether to dispense with a commissioner. Keeping Morocco on was to give them a two-year buffer to research the matter, although little progress has been made in that direction.
Alcombright said the Morocco's leaving did not indicate a change in the public safety structure and the commissioner's position would remain active until the city determined what to do. The mayor said he didn't think the savings of eliminating the position would be significant.
"You're going to go away from the commissioner but nobody knows what I do," said Morocco. "I've brought in $5 million in grants; someone has to maintain those."
The police and fire director jobs would have to change, he said. "Call them what you want, they still have a job to do so to say they're going to their job and do what I'd do managing grants and budgets and stuff ... ."
Morocco's partial departure reduces Public Safety's administrative budget by $63,000. The rest of the departments are for the most part level-funded and there are no increases for department heads with the expectation of the assessor, whose salary reflects the position's change from four days a week to five.
The mayor defended hiring a new tourism director, saying it would be a source of revenue.
The administrative officer position is funded for a half-year, with hopes it can be filled by next January. An assistant information systems director has been added at $50,000 but an assistant inspector of buildings will be left vacant as will two posts in the library — the assistant director and an office clerk.
The Finance Committee recommended slashing stipends from city boards, including the City Council, on Wednesday but voted 2-1 to keep the tourism director position after nearly a half-hour of discussion.
Committee member Alan Marden called for all volunteer boards to have their stipends slashed and the City Council to accept $1 each this year, a $27,000 cut, "just for one year to send a message."
Alcombright said some of the stipends may be required by state law. "They may be mandated but there's no reason they have to accept it," said Marden.
The mayor vigorously defended keeping the tourism director position and department, a cost of about $51,000 total, in the budget.
"I think this is a vital position for the city of North Adams," he said, comparing it to the Megan Wilden's work in Pittsfield's Cultural Office. "I think that this position has the ability to generate revenue, I think this position with the right person has the ability to generate grants, that it has the ability to reach out and in a sense be the face of the city.
"I really think this is a very, very important part of us moving forward."
Councilor David lamarre wondered if it would be better to wait a year to offer a higher salary and attract better candidates for the vacant post; Alcombright said the eight people to be interviewed, including "five who are spectacular," had been told the $34,000 salary and indicated it was acceptable.
Councilor Marie Harpin asked if the Develop North Adams and the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, or staff at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art could coordinate city events. The mayor and Finance Committee members Chairman Michael Bloom and David Bond said it would be difficult and unlikely.
"If they were to bring in a half-million, the $34,000 would be money well-spent," said Bloom.
Bloom and Bond voted to recommend the position; Marden voted against, adding "this is the hardest vote for me."
A public hearing on the $15.6 million school budget will be held Tuesday, June 7, and presented to the Finance Committee the next day. The city budget will be presented at next week's City Council meeting.
The draft budget is below and can be found on the sidebar. The document was created horizontally but, unfortunately, appears vertically on Scribd. We will try to find a way to post it so it's easier to read.
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City Advertising for Tourism Director
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is looking for a new face — someone who will promote North Adams' cultural and recreational assets and partner with regional organizations with similar goals.
The position for a director of tourism and community events was posted on BerkshireJobs.com last week. The job appears to expand on what had been the director of the Mayor's Office of Tourism and Cultural Development.
According to the job posting, "This position will create an atmosphere that attracts, welcomes and supports existing and new cultural institutions and creative businesses, as well as artists and creative individuals of all disciplines into the city of North Adams."
The goal is to increase the number of visitors (and the amount of their spending) in the city by coordinating events with other entities and towns and promoting marketing intiatives. The director will also coordinate all city-sponsored activities, such as the Mayor's Downtown Celebration, the Northern Berkshire Food Festival, and sporting events among others. The person selected will also be expected to grow a volunteer corps and work with existing organizations.
The post requires a bachelor's degree in marketing or communications and several years experience in related marketing. The new director will also have to be able to handle the website, email marketing, social media and online strategies.
The tourism position had been filled for the past decade by Rod Bunt, a former WNAW radio host hired by the former administration. Bunt quit March 3 saying he was looking for opportunities in the private sector, but there had been speculation for months that he and Mayor Richard Alcombright weren't seeing eye to eye on the position's responsibilities. "I've been canned, sacked, terminated, booted, ...," he wrote on his "The Unemployment Diary," but later told the Transcript that it was a writing exercise for an obscure literary magazine.
Alcombright said the city would take the opportunity to expand and "carefully craft" the director's job description to incorporate more marketing skills. Within a couple weeks of Bunt's departure and before any job vacancy was posted, the city had received nearly three dozen resumes.
The director's post is currently an S-35, with a starting pay of $33,009. The advertisement does not give a wage estimate nor is it clear the position will be the same classification. Alcombright last year raised eyebrows when he pushed for a new classification for an administrative assistant that jumped the job's starting wage up several steps from the secretarial classification.
The city's also looking for a seasonal park security officer for Windsor Lake and the campground. The Parks & Recreation Commission discussed the post at its last meeting.
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Bunt Resigns as Tourism Director
Rod Bunt, right, leads the Fall Foliage Children's Parade in 2009. The director of the city's office of tourism for the last decade resigned Thursday.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Rod Bunt quit abruptly Thursday as the city's director of tourism and cultural development.
Mayor Richard Alcombright said he and Bunt had spoken Wednesday and the parting was amicable. Bunt submitted his resignation effective today.
"I wasn't shocked, he wasn't shocked," said the mayor, who added that Bunt was planning to pursue opportunities in the private sector. "I'll miss him, he's a great guy."
Bunt told the North Adams Transcript, which broke the story earlier this afternoon, that his annual salary of $34,160 hasn't moved much since he was hired in 2001 and he "had some irons in the fire."
The former WNAW morning show host was named director for the newly created office in 2001 by former Mayor John Barrett III. He oversaw events and promotions in the city including the annual farmers' market, Winterfest and the Fall Foliage Festival.
He told the Transcript it wouldn't be fair to the city to hold the post while looking elsewhere. Bunt said he would be available to help the new director transition into the job.
"Rod's been the events guy for the city for 10-plus years," said Alcombright. "He's done a lot of things and grown a lot of events. He's been kind of the feet on the street for us."
Bunt reportedly also resigned as director of the annual Fall Foliage Parade, according to an e-mail sent from parade sponsor Berkshire Chamber of Commerce to the Parade Committee.
His name was removed from the city's website by Thursday afternoon. The mayor's administrative assistant Lisa Loomis is listed as the contact and will be the liasion to the chamber.
A call to Bunt on Thursday has not yet been returned.
With a summer season filled with the Food Festival, the return of Wilco and a giant Zumba dance fundraiser on Main Street for the annual Relay for Life, the position won't go vacant long. Bunt's departure, however, will give the city an opportunity to re-envision the job's responsibilities and write a "carefully crafted" job description, said the mayor.
That will mean searching for someone with a marketing and branding background, and possibly experience in business and the arts, to coordinate with the city's cultural and business groups. The mayor expected to post the position within the next week or so.
"I fully intend to fill the position," said Alcombright. "There are a lot of events that are in a sense city events that you can't bump off onto the private sectors."
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