Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

County's No. 1 Fan Pushes Tourism

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

County's No. 1 Fan Pushes Tourism

Article excerpt

Byline: R. Michael Anderson, County Line staff writer

Susan Soltys has just completed her first year on the job as Clay County's No. 1 cheerleader.

The former New Yorker appears to have established firm job security as the county's first-ever director of tourism and marketing through the joint efforts of the Tourist Development Council, which funds the program, and the chamber of commerce, which runs it.

"We've got her [Soltys] out there promoting Clay County every day of the week," said County Commissioner Pat McGovern, who chairs the Tourist Development Council and helped secure county funding for the new position last year.

Now, the chamber and Soltys are back seeking the county's continued financial support for tourism development for another three years.

Following a recommendation from the council in June 2000, the County Commission approved an initial appropriation of $85,000 for a 15-month contract with the chamber to fund the position, which included a $35,000 starting salary for Soltys. The contract is due to expire Sept. 30.

During a meeting with McGovern and four other Tourist Development Council members Tuesday, Soltys made a presentation based on her activities in the past year and Steve McDermaid, the chamber's executive director, proposed a three-year extension of the contract.

"My sense of it was they [other members] really weren't sure whether the system was working or not until Susan gave her presentation," said McGovern, adding that after the presentation every Tourist Development Council member present expressed support for continuing the program.

"They didn't talk about money, but the concept was unanimously supported by the members who were there," he said.

The Tourist Development Council will meet again in September, at which time the proposal likely will be discussed and sent to the County Commission with a favorable recommendation, McGovern said. The commission controls the council's budget, which derives its revenue from a bed tax on motel rooms.

McDermaid and Soltys emphasized Clay County's attractive natural resources as its strongest attractions for people who enjoy outdoor activities.

"It is important to remember that Clay County is not an attraction destination, nor do we want to be," said McDermaid. "We attract the visitor who is interested in hiking, camping, fishing, canoeing, soccer tournaments, historic sites, golf . . . "

If a new tourism contract is approved, he said, the chamber is prepared to "add a visitor center and tourism office where visitors can come in freely and browse through the brochures and catalogs and ask questions."

During the past year, Soltys has marketed Clay through brochures, speeches, advertising, magazine articles and a Web site she createdt. …

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