Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tourism Director at Home; Clay Woman Gets Job Selling County

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tourism Director at Home; Clay Woman Gets Job Selling County

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey, County Line staff writer

A top staffer at the Jacksonville & the Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau has been named the Clay County Chamber of Commerce's new tourism director, the chamber's second major hire in as many weeks.

Eve Szymanski, a Clay resident, who is now convention sales manager for the CVB, starts her new job Jan. 6, said George Francisco, the chamber's interim executive director and outgoing president.

With 16 years of sales and marketing experience in the hospitality, publishing and convention business, and built-in knowledge of Clay County, Szymanski will be able to hit the ground running as the chamber's tourism director, Francisco said.

"We are ecstatic," he said.

"What a coup . . . A perfect coup for the chamber and the community," he said. "It will be a challenging job for her, but I have no doubt she can handle it."

Szymanski, who started her career as sales manager at Orange Park's Holiday Inn, said she was happy to be "coming home to Clay County."

"I'm very excited," she said. "I feel like I've learned a lot since I left . . . I am bringing all that home."

Her Dec. 13 hiring came on the heels of the announcement that Kellie Jo Kilberg of Jacksonville had been named executive director of a newly created alliance that includes the chamber, the Clay County Development Authority and the Clay County Economic Development Council.

Kilberg will replace chamber Executive Director Steve McDermaid, who is stepping aside because of health problems. Her role will also encompass the duties of the retiring Orien Pass, who ran the authority and the economic development council.

Szymanski said she was looking forward to meeting Kilberg, who starts Jan. 13, and the two of them embarking "on a whole new, clean slate."

And Francisco said he was looking forward to what he expected to be "refreshing and creative efforts" from them, helping to guide Clay County's future growth.

"An exciting time is coming," he said.

Kathy Hayman, the chamber's program, director, said 80 people applied for the tourism director position, vacant since September. …

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