Lexington's tourism chief resigns after board meeting; search to replace him begins

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comMay 21, 2014 

The city's top tourism chief abruptly resigned Wednesday morning after a board meeting of the visitors and convention bureau.

Jim Browder's resignation was effective immediately, according to a news release from VisitLex. Browder had been president of the visitors bureau since June 2011.

Browder is no longer listed on VisitLex.com, the website for the visitors bureau.

A search for Browder's replacement will begin immediately, according to a news release. Patricia Knight, the vice president of finance and operations, and Mary Quinn Ramer, vice president of marketing, are acting as interim directors until a replacement can be named.

VisitLex has an overall operating budget of $5 million and has 16 full-time staff and seven part-time staff. It receives money from a tax on Fayette County hotel and motel rooms.

A reason was not given for Browder's departure.

The nine-commissioner board that oversees the visitors bureau met Wednesday morning in an executive session, which was conducted behind closed doors, to discuss a personnel issue that was moved to beginning of the agenda. The agenda does not provide details about the personnel issue.

Groups that receive public money are allowed to close meetings for limited purposes, including personnel items.

It was after the executive session that Browder's resignation was announced.

In the news release, Greater Lexington Visitors and Convention Bureau Commission chairman Ron Tritschler praised Browder.

"We appreciate Jim Browder's leadership during these last three years, particularly his vision to relocate the Lexington Visitors Center in the heart of the hospitality community downtown," Tritschler said. "We certainly wish him well in his next endeavor."

Tritschler did not immediately return phone calls asking for additional comment. Browder could not be reached for comment.

Ron van Haaren, a convention and visitor's bureau commissioner, said he could not comment on Browder's departure and referred questions to Tritschler.

As president, Browder moved the visitors center into Victorian Square, which increased foot traffic to the visitors center. More than 25,000 people visited the center in 2013, a record number of visitors. In addition, Browder provided strategic direction for all sales and marketing efforts and oversaw day-to-day operations of the visitors center in the past year.

Browder also spearheaded the change of the agency's name to VisitLex and began a branding strategy to make the blue horse, known as Big Lex, an icon for the area. Big Lex is found on city way finding signs and other promotional material.

Browder has nearly 35 years of hospitality industry experience, serving in various roles in sales and marketing throughout his career.

Beth Musgrave: (859)231-3205. Twitter: @HLCityhall.

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