CAPC interviews tourism director candidate

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission held a special meeting Monday, June 12, to interview Madison Dawson, the first of two candidates interested in becoming tourism director.

Chairman Jeff Carter explained that Dawson had been in Eureka Springs for the past two days, saying she was given free rein to eat, shop and explore everything the city has to offer. It was important to the commission, Carter said, for Dawson to “experience Eureka on her own.”

Dawson said she enjoyed visiting the city, from the restaurants to the shops and everything in between.

“It’s something special that in such a small town, there’s a quality of food here that’s incredible,” Dawson said. “Since I’ve spent some time here this trip, I really think I would be beneficial to the tourism industry of Eureka Springs.”

Dawson said she graduated from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla., with a degree in hospitality and tourism management in 2019. In college, Dawson said, she worked as the regional director of sales and marketing for a Hilton hotel. She then worked as the tourism development manager for the Muskogee Chamber of Commerce before losing her job in July 2020 because of COVID-19.

“My background is in hotels, is in restaurants and is in the tourism industry,” Dawson said. “I believe I’d be able to speak that language a little bit to everybody, to be the liaison between the CAPC and the community leaders here.”

Carter asked if the commissioners had any questions, and commissioner Melissa Greene said she found Dawson “refreshing.”

“I like her youth. I like her exuberance, but I also see in Madison a strength and it’s going to take a strength … here,” Greene said.

Greene said she liked that Dawson has convention experience and could understand some of the young business owners in the city.

“It would be nice to have someone young, because they can talk the talk,” Greene said.

Commissioner Carol Wright said she liked that Dawson was an “excellent student.”

“Did you tell me you were the valedictorian?” Wright asked.

Dawson said she graduated from high school with a 4.0 GPA and received a scholarship to attend Northeastern State University. She graduated from college with a 3.4 GPA, Dawson said.

“I’m more proud of that because no one tells you how hard college is,” Dawson said. “I worked really hard through college.”

Wright said Dawson was involved in sports and cheerleading in school and asked how Dawson would bring groups of young people to the city. Dawson said there’s an untapped market when it comes to young people. The city could host cheerleading or dance competitions, Dawson said.

“We can reach out to organizations and promote ourselves. We’re a great destination here,” Dawson said. “It’s a market we can really tap into. I’d love to have more discussions in that area.”

Commissioner Bobbie Foster said she liked that Dawson is a “great communicator.”

“That is one of the things, I think, that is key to any organization,” Foster said. “No matter what organization, you have to be able to communicate effectively and you’re able to do that.”

Wright said it’s good that Dawson is familiar with small towns, having grown up in a small town in Oklahoma. Dawson said her hometown has a population between 1,700 and 2,000 people.

“Small town living … I like it,” Dawson said. “You build relationships with those people that last lifetimes, that last generations.”

Wright asked Dawson to describe some of the events she organized and Dawson said she worked on several volunteer events in college, including the Founders Day 5K and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

“We took that day and did charity work around the city of Tahlequah,” Dawson said. “We organized hundreds of students that day, which college students aren’t the easiest to work with and you had to be there at 6 a.m., which again a college student doesn’t want to do.”

Wright then asked how Dawson would increase business in Eureka Springs and Dawson said she would reach out to organizations throughout the country to ask if they’d like to have their conference in the city. She would focus on bringing visitors to town during the week, Dawson said, and not just the weekend.

“I think we offer more than a Dallas does,” Dawson said. “A lot of these people are excited to go to a small town with culture like we have here.”

Bringing large conferences to town would help everyone, Dawson said.

“They’re going to walk downtown and they’re going to spend some money in the shops,” Dawson said. “They’re going to spend money everywhere because that’s the experience we offer them”

Commissioner Harry Meyer asked how soon Dawson could start working and Dawson said she’d have to give two weeks’ notice to her job. She could be working in Eureka Springs four weeks after being hired, Dawson said. Dawson asked how soon the commission plans to hire someone and Carter said it should be soon.

“We want to move forward. We’re ready,” Carter said. “We’re ready to hire somebody and move tourism forward.”

Jeremiah Alvarado, a reporter with the Eureka Springs Independent, asked if he could ask some questions and Carter said that was up to the commission. The commission agreed and Alvarado asked Dawson to give a quick rundown of her resume. Dawson did, and Alvarado then asked what she felt her role would be if she were hired as tourism director.

“We’re no … this is not … so I don’t think we’re going to take questions where it feels like you’re interviewing her,” Carter interrupted. “If you guys want to connect after, that’s what I’d recommend.”

“This is a public meeting, correct?” Alvarado asked. “And it was described in the email as an interview, was it not?”

“It is for us to interview her publicly, so if you want to meet with her afterwards …” Carter said.

“I do apologize, Jeff, but if I might say, it sounds more like a sales pitch than an interview,” Alvarado said.

“No, no, if you’re agreeable you guys can visit after but I’m not going to let you take our time for an interview,” Carter said.

The commission will interview candidate Garry Holstein on Monday, July 19.

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