Sullivan County mayor fires tourism director

J. H. Osborne • Mar 19, 2008 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — The Sullivan County Commission voted about three years ago to create a new job within county government to promote tourism.

County Mayor Steve Godsey reversed that action Tuesday by eliminating the position, dismissing the county’s tourism director, Krisna Goodwin.

Godsey said there just isn’t enough tourism-related work to justify keeping the position, which Goodwin had held for about two years.

“Sullivan County really doesn’t have enough for a full-time tourism director,” Godsey said, adding he wouldn’t rule out adding back a part-time position at some future point. “There just wasn’t enough work.”

Godsey also said he thinks there’s an overlap in what the county’s job was perceived to be about and what convention and visitors bureaus in Kingsport and Bristol already provide.

“Bristol does a lot ... and they always promote Sullivan County, and Kingsport ... promotes Sullivan County,” Godsey said.

Sullivan County contributes $10,000 per year to the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association but provides no funding to either the Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau (KCVB) or the Bristol Convention and Visitors Bureau (BCVB).

Asked by the Times-News if he’d given any thought to funneling any county dollars to those two efforts — which he agreed help market the county as a whole — Godsey said that’d be up to the County Commission.

Contacted by the Times-News by telephone Wednesday, County Attorney Dan Street said it was his understanding that Goodwin was “let go for lack of work.”

Street said the resolution approved by the County Commission in March 2005 clearly gives the county mayor supervisory authority over the position. But whether or not the county mayor can eliminate the position was a question Street said isn’t one he could answer.

“The resolution creates the position, and I really don’t know what to say about that,” Street said. “If the County Commission thinks that the position should be filled, I guess they’ll just have to get back together and start all over.”

Goodwin said she was withholding comment Wednesday afternoon pending discussions with her attorney — with whom she planned to meet Thursday.

An e-mail went out to local media outlets and community organizations late Tuesday from Goodwin’s county office account.

In that message, which indicated tourism questions should be directed to Godsey, Goodwin said Godsey told her at 4 p.m. Tuesday that her job had been eliminated.

The county tourism director’s job was created by commission vote in March 2005 (all present voted “yes”), but the slot wasn’t filled until Goodwin was hired in early 2006.

Sullivan County’s current budget, for the fiscal year that ends June 30, includes $60,326 to pay for the tourism director’s position and office: $38,209 for personnel; $12,117 for benefits; $7,500 for contracted services; and $2,500 for supplies and materials.

County commissioners are expected to begin hashing out a budget for the upcoming fiscal year sometime next month.

Godsey said budget considerations didn’t really have anything to do with the timing of his action to eliminate Goodwin’s position.

Accounts and Budgets Director Larry Bailey, the county’s top finance officer, said departmental budget requests for fiscal year 2009 — which begins July 1 — have been coming into his office in recent weeks. Bailey said he wasn’t sure if a request had yet been received for the tourism director’s office, but he had not been approached about any potential funding for the BCVB or the KCVB.

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