The Geary County Commission Tuesday approved a list of members for the newly-created Convention and Visitors Bureau Board.
Commissioners created the board late last month after having dissolved a similar advisory board in the spring of 2019.
The new members are Janie Murk, Rick Matta, Wendy Jensen, Samit Patel, Brad Roether, Rachael Cinco, Sheila Burdett, Adam Wilkey and Blake McPherren.
Commissioners Keith Ascher and Brad Scholz voted in favor of the list of names, while Commissioner Charles Stimatze abstained. He has a conflict of interest because his wife, Michele Stimatze, is the CVB’s director.
Ascher said Florence Whitebread, the former Geary County commissioner who was designated chairperson of the CVB board when it was reformed last month, selected these people. She presented the county with a list of potential board members.
“We pretty much relied on Mrs. Whitebread to get us her recommendations,” Ascher said.
The goal, according to Ascher, is to have some direction from a committee.
The board must be formed of 10 people, the majority of which must be in the lodging industry, Ascher said.
According to Ascher, Whitebread “just wants to get something up and running quick,” a sentiment she expressed during the meeting where the new members were selected.
“That’s kind of what we heard from the people who came in and spoke on Aug. 10,” Ascher said, referring to members of the public who attended an Aug. 10 meeting.
A handful of members of the public attended to express concerns about issues raised in an article published Aug. 9 by the Junction City Union, which examined in detail the CVB’s oversight and spending patterns.
“We’re trying to accommodate all that,” Ascher said.
The CVB runs on transient guest tax, which is levied on guests at Geary County hotels.
According to Ascher, the new CVB board will have more input than the previous board and be more hands-on.
“This is less of an advisory board (and) this is more of a committee that gives us recommendations,” he said. “So they will be the ones doing suggestions on projects, they will do, in conjunction with our director, the evaluation of the director (of the CVB). But that’s all spelled out in the bylaws.”
The word ‘advisory’ has been removed from the board’s name, Ascher said.
In the end, he said, the county commission has the final say on CVB matters, but the commission plans to give weight to the board’s recommendations. The commission still makes the decisions, he said, at the end of the day, on how CVB dollars are spent.
“This one has a little bit more — how should I say? It’s more valid,” Ascher said.
As with the past CVB board, the new board is composed of volunteers.
In the past, a county commissioner serve as an ex officio member. Ascher served in this role prior to the original board’s dissolution. Now, no county commissioner will serve on the board or attend its meetings.
“That, I think, is even more of the beauty of this,” he said. “This is strictly the committee and no commissioner is going to be involved in those meetings, so when they come to us, when they give a report or they give a recommendation, there is no preconceived county commissioner input."
The board was dissolved before, according to CVB Director Michele Stimatze, due to trouble getting board members to attend meetings. Ascher said he believed this problem would not come up again as it had in the past.
“This group has a passion and that’s what (Whitebread) was trying to get to … she pretty much did the vetting process for us,” Ascher said. “She wanted people that were committed and I think that’s what her whole goal was. 'Are you committed? Are you going to be here?’ Because in the past, we didn’t have that. And that’s no offense to the previous committee, it’s just that we probably didn’t strike the right group."
The newly-formed board will meet for the first time at noon next Tuesday.
“This is a start,” Ascher said. “With the way the terms are staggered, we still have a lot of good prospects in the wings that we can select from to replace people who are going off.”
Upcoming CVB Business
Whitebread said the reason she wanted the CVB board to begin meeting immediately was because the CVB has two major events coming up in October — two large fishing tournaments on Milford Lake. A Cabela’s King Kat Qualifier tournament will take place Oct. 10 at Milford Lake and then Oct. 30 and 31, the national King Kat Championship will take place at the lake.
“These are pretty big and (Michele Stimatze) and the secretary there are the only two people functioning in that office right now,” Whitebread said.
Whitebread said she felt the new board would be helpful in managing these and any future events.
During the commission meeting where the new members were approved, Michele Stimatze also reported that Milford Lake had been selected as the location of a Cabela's King Kat National Qualifier tournament in May 2021.
“I think it’s a good investment,” Whitebread said. “Fishermen tend to leave a little money behind when they come to town."
“People do need to understand about something when it comes to the tournaments,” Michele Stimatze said. “Those people coming in all year to fish. They spend money at the stores, they buy fuel and buy food, and so picks it up. And so it’s a good return for the Geary County Commission."