The Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission (CAPC) and staff have been busy this past week as they interviewed candidates for the position of executive director. Interim-Director Rick Bright was praised for dedication to the organization as he has kept communications open with the press and public throughout the candidate progression.
With full cooperation from the commission, Bright shared recordings of three candidate interviews thus far. In addition to directing the finances and now the daily operations, Bright also released a 67-page in-depth study by H2R Market Research of 2019 Brand Perception of the Ozarks area which includes valuable marketing information specific to Eureka Springs.
City alderman Bob Thomas has observed the CAPC developments and applauds Bright’s willingness to take on the additional tasks. Thomas offered Bright and staff a token of his appreciation in the form of candy bars, saying, “To start your June off right, as a token of appreciation for all that you do to make Eureka Springs the unique and hospitable experience that it is for those who live, work, and visit here, have a Bright Bar!”
Chair Carol Wright is directing the interview process and has mapped out a few target questions asked of each candidate. Staff and commissioners alsoposed questions to the candidate and took the candidate’s questions. The commission is looking for a candidate who will hold the position long-term, who has extensive experience in tourism as well as marketing leadership, who can demonstrate strong budgeting skills, will lead the economic growth of the city, and who wants to make Eureka Springs their home.
That last bit is especially important to Wright who said she dreamed of making Eureka Springs her home since she was 10 years old. However, commissioner James DeVito places heavy value on experience in the tourism industry for the future executive director. Commissioner Susan Harman expressed interest in the candidate working well with the present staff. All these concerns considered, so far the person who best fits this bill is candidate Lacey Ekberg.
Ekberg has extensive experience in tourism and city promotions having been the CVB Director in South Padre Island and executive director for the DeLand Area Chamber of Commerce in Florida, not to mention working in tourism development for Yellowstone National Park, the State of Alaska, and Atlanta.
Ekberg stated she has lived in 33 states building tourism for a vast array of very special locations, and would like to make her last stop Eureka Springs. She and her spouse have agreed, “We are looking for our forever home.”
Ekberg spoke about her history in developing staff leadership, promoting from within and encouraging employees to grow. She said she looks for employees who show interest in improving operations and believes in nurturing that behavior even if it means changing their job descriptions.
She also said her approach to working with contracted advertising agencies is firm, noting her history of researching that every dollar is being applied to increase the city’s return on investment.
After the interview Wright stated that she likes that Ekberg is tough and maintains a good sense of humor, “I think she can be successful here.” Harman worried that Ekberg may miss the adrenaline rush of a large population, and that she would have a very different staff leadership style compared to that of Mike Maloney.
DeVito stated he liked Ekberg’s extensive knowledge of tourism and that she has successfully operated in a variety of diverse tourist locations around the US. He believes Ekberg could “hit the ground running.”
The annual salary for the executive director is listed at $65,000-85,000 depending on skills and experience. Other applicants who were interviewed were Kaylee Champlain of Grandview who has experience with special events including directing 50 volunteers for Branson Comic Con, and Tom Rask, who said he didn’t think it necessary to be “on-site to lead,” and his residence would remain in Florida.