As head of Pinellas County's tourist development agency, D.T. Minich worked to overcome a series of historic challenges, from the recession to the BP oil spill. But his greatest legacy has been helping to break down barriers and build consensus across the Tampa Bay region.
Minich, the chief executive of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, leaves Friday to take the CEO position at Experience Kissimmee, the tourism arm of Osceola County. It's a professional challenge and a change of scenery for a 50-year-old executive who has spent two decades of his career promoting the Florida beaches. Our loss is greater Orlando's gain.
Minich's experience, though, offers several lessons. As the head of a tourism agency that falls under Pinellas County government — unlike Hillsborough and his new employer in Osceola, which have turned to public-private models — Minich has shown over seven years that he could produce results and be accountable to the public under the state's open-government laws. For the past three years, Pinellas has posted record numbers of visitors and tourist tax collections. Minich has been an open and accessible public official who has promoted the best of what Pinellas has to offer.
He also reached across the bay to the tourism industry in Tampa, working to establish a new foundation of cooperation that benefits both counties. The two areas have joined hands to promote conventions, sporting events and other activities on both sides of the bay. Pinellas contributed about half the hotel rooms for the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. It is working with Hillsborough to promote new overseas flights into Tampa International. "That wasn't the case when I got here seven years ago," he said recently.
Minich succeeded in part by recognizing that the bridges unite rather than divide the bay area. He is likely to remain an important player for the area even after moving on, as Tampa Bay officials expand the tourist pipeline between the central Florida theme parks and the gulf beaches. Minich did a good job selling the sunsets — and by recognizing that no county is an island.