Thursday, May 24, 2018
Editorials

Tourism agency needs open search for chief

Kelly Miller, who resigned Wednesday after less than a year on the job, wasn't around long enough to leave his mark on Hills­borough County's tourism agency. Now that group, Tampa Bay & Co., has an obligation to act with more openness in finding a successor.

Tampa Bay & Co. acted with public contempt every step of the way in hiring Miller. Despite their promises to the contrary, officials kept the candidates a secret, closed the search to the public, ignored queries about Miller's qualities and pay and refused to discuss his marching orders. This is unacceptable for an agency that is funded almost entirely by tax revenue. And it is inexcusable for an operation that for too many years has had a mixed record of success.

The agency's search for a new director should launch a much broader soul-searching exercise. Why is Hillsborough paying such lavish salaries (former CEO Paul Catoe was paid $316,000 in 2010)? Would the agency be more efficient operating as an arm of county government, such as the case in Pinellas? Why such a corporate name like Tampa Bay & Co. for an agency that acts as the tourism bureau? And doesn't it make sense for tourism boards across the region to combine and promote the entire bay area?

These are the questions that warrant the very public input that Tampa Bay & Co. refused to allow the last time around.

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