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Head-hunting for Hillsborough tourism agency falls short, Tampa lawyer says

Hillsborough County's tourism promotion agency has just started reviewing applications for a successor to retiring chief executive Paul Catoe.

But a Tampa lawyer with economic development credentials says Tampa Bay & Co. hasn't cast its net wide enough to catch top-shelf talent.

"For something so important, I'm holding out (hope) they'll do a true national search," said Steven Burton, who sits on the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.'s executive committee.

Tampa Bay & Co. directors decided to forgo paying tens of thousands of dollars for a consultant to identify top national candidates, said Ronald Ciganek with USAmeriBank, chairman of the tourism group. Directors also didn't want some hotshot who would stay only a few years, then bolt for a bigger market, he said.

The agency placed ads in publications for travel professionals and asked directors and staffers to locate potential candidates in the hospitality business, Ciganek said. The strategy generated "more than 20" applications, he said, including a few from Tampa Bay & Co. employees.

"If we need to go do a search, we can go do a search," he said.

Ciganek doesn't know Burton, a member of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board, and hadn't heard his opinion.

Tampa Bay & Co. wouldn't discuss the salary range for the CEO job or how much Catoe earns. The organization markets the Tampa Convention Center to business associations and professional groups, works closely with Busch Gardens and prepares bids to host big events including the Super Bowl.

Catoe plans to retire Oct. 31 but agreed to stay longer if necessary. Tampa Bay & Co. declined to identify any applicants. But the local hotel executive Jim Bartholomay resigned in July as the organization's chairman of the board of directors, which will choose the new CEO. He subsequently applied for the job.

"It's a perfect fit for me," said Bartholomay, general manager of the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel. "In Atlanta, I was in leadership in the chamber of commerce. I've always been involved in community things."

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Head-hunting for Hillsborough tourism agency falls short, Tampa lawyer says 08/26/11 [Last modified: Saturday, August 27, 2011 12:52am]

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