1. Business

Despite naming three finalists, Pinellas County has reopened the search for its next tourism chief

An ad campaign by Visit St. Pete/Clearwater. [Courtesy of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater]
Published Jun. 11

CLEARWATER — After naming three finalists for the top tourism booster job at Visit St. Pete/Clearwater last month and introducing them at an industry gathering, Pinellas County's administrator says he is extending the search.

Barry Burton confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday that he wants to seek more candidates for the director opening at the county's tourism and marketing agency.

"This is obviously a very important position given the tourism market here in Pinellas," Burton said. "I want to find the very best candidate nationally and I have decided to continue advertising the position and seek other candidates."

Burton named the finalists early in May, all three seemingly qualified on paper to handle marketing the county and managing a roughly $40 million budget. They are: Tim Ramsberger, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater's current chief operating officer; Tamara Pigott, the director of Lee County's tourism bureau; and Brent DeRaad, the CEO of Visit Tucson.

Burton hired Minnesota-based Searchwide Global to find candidates for the position after the former CEO left suddenly almost six months ago. Burton said the company would continue the search for candidates under the existing contract, so there will be no added costs.

When asked if the decision meant the three named finalists were no longer in the running, Burton said: "I want to see what other options are out there. I'll leave it at that."

On May 15, the three finalists attended a public "meet-and-greet" at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort so tourism leaders in the county had a chance to meet with them, ask questions and share their input with Burton. He said that the meeting helped inform his decision.

"I'm looking for someone with the skill set, background and proven experience in managing such a large organization," Burton said. "This is a key position."

The tourism bureau gets most of its money from the 6 percent tax Pinellas puts on overnight stays. The bulk of the money is made off of hotels and is also used to fund county projects.

According to the county, DeRaad manages a $10 million budget at Visit Tucson. At Lee County's tourism bureau, Pigott handles a $20 million budget.

In January, David Downing stepped down as CEO to work for a private company after the Times began requesting documents related to his county spending and use of vacation time.

In April, the agency's temporary CEO — former SeaWorld executive Jim Dean — left after about a month in his interim role to go head the Memphis Zoo.

Since then, Paul Sacco has been splitting his time as director of solid waste for the county and acting director of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater.

Contact Sara DiNatale at Follow @sara_dinatale.


  1. This satellite image shows Hurricane Michael on Oct. 9, 2018, as it enters the Gulf of Mexico. It made landfall near Mexico Beach in the Panhandle as a Category 5 storm. [Photo courtesy of NOAA] NOAA
    Nearly a year after the storm, 18,000 claims are still open.
  2. Watermans Crossing apartments at 4515 N. Rome Avenue in Tampa. Westside Capital Group
    Jakub Hejl discovered the Tampa Bay area while studying at IMG Academy.
  3. The Tampa Bay Lightning has tapped Cigar City Brewing to bring its Jai Alai, Guayabera, and Florida Cracker beers to Amalie Arena as the team’s official craft beer partner. (Photo via Tampa Bay Lightning) Tampa Bay Lightning
    Cigar City also will move its popular annual Hunahpu’s Beer Festival to Amalie Arena starting next March.
  4. An administrative judge said a Pasco County ordinance allowing solar farms in agricultural districts did not violate the county's comprehensive land-use plan. Times
    An ordinance did not violate the county’s land-use plan that is supposed to protect rural Northeast Pasco, a judge said.
  5. Energy-efficient LED light bulbs. (Times | 2008) St. Petersburg Times
    Trump’s administration recently scrapped a rule that would have phased out incandescent light bulbs.
  6. For sale sign on a  Tampa Bay home. [SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN | Times]
    It pays to shop around for the lowest rate, new study shows.
  7. President Donald Trump speaks at the 2019 House Republican Conference Member Retreat Dinner in Baltimore on Sept. 12. JOSE LUIS MAGANA  |  AP
    The country is moving in that direction, though.
  8. This Jan. 31, 2017 photo shows the entrance to SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla. JOHN RAOUX  |  AP
    Gustavo “Gus” Antorcha cited a “difference of approach.”
  9. Gas prices could surge over the coming days because of a sharp drop in Saudi Arabia’s oil production. Pictured is a man filling up his car. | [Times file photo]
    A weekend drone strike on an oil processing facility caused the kingdom to cut production in half.
  10. TECO Peoples Gas ranked highest among its peers in the South for J.D. Power customer satisfaction rankings. Pictured is the company's headquarters in Tampa in 2017. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times (2017)] URSO, CHRIS  |  Tampa Bay Times
    It ranked as the top utility for customer satisfaction among midsize utilities in the south.