Chris Graham: Behind the Crookshanks resignation

Column by Chris Graham

It can be the case that a resignation offered one day to take effect the next can be an indication of something salacious having happened behind the scenes, but that’s not what I’m hearing in regard to the surprise resignation last week of longtime Waynesboro tourism director Lianne Crookshanks.

My sources indicate that it simply became obvious to higher-ups in the Yancey Building that it was time to move in a new direction in the tourism area.

Crookshanks spent a fair amount of time in the hot seat in Waynesboro in her time as tourism director. The very existence of the office of tourism itself was a source of controversy and consternation on the part of critics who wondered aloud what Waynesboro might have to market to tourists and what Crookshanks was doing of value to get the message to tourists that Waynesboro was open for business.

I think both questions were valid, and I’d add a third one to the mix – what did City Council ever do to provide even a sliver of guidance on what the city would want from a tourism office?

My view is that Crookshanks was given basically nothing to work with, both in terms of guidance and in terms of resources to work with.

That said, I would have liked to have seen Crookshanks take more initiative to fill the vacuum, so to speak. The perception of her over the years came to be that she did as little as possible to just survive, essentially, so as not to raise any attention to her office, the thinking being that whenever there was attention put on her office, it wasn’t usually a good thing.

Going along to get along – that about sums up the past nine years of tourism-office efforts here.

I’m hearing that the impetus for the resignation came down from on high due to the anticipation that the city might finally be ready to pull the trigger on a new economic-development director. The tourism office is a part of the economic-development office, and what I’m told is that the idea in cleaning house in tourism is meant to make it so that the new economic-development director can begin duties with a clean slate.

My recommendation to this new economic-development head is to ask City Council for some guidance on what we’re supposed to be doing in terms of our tourism efforts first and foremost. No more going along just to get along.

Then I’d recommend to City Council that it dispense with the illusion that Waynesboro should be marketed as a tourist destination. In the here and now, Waynesboro is best positioned as a hub-and-spoke destination for tourists who want to stay in a central location to visit nearby localities.

Another recommendation to City Council: Get moving on the development of tourist destinations that take advantage of our proximity to the nexus of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Skyline Drive. It’s going to happen eventually,. but eventually doesn’t have to be 50 years from now, unless we continue to stick our heads in the sand in the belief that private investors are going to invest millions in our community without us lifting a finger to invest in ourselves.

It’s time to put up or shut up. We can’t blame Lianne Crookshanks for our tourism ills anymore.

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