Advertisement
  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]
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 sdinatale@tampabay.com. Follow @sara_dinatale.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Rendering of Encompass Health Corporation's planned 37,000-square-foot facility in Land O' Lakes [Pasco EDC]
    News and notes on local businesses
  2. Jeremy Sutliff drags a freshly cut hop plant over to the harvesting machine at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Wimauma. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
    Researchers are trying to make a variety of hops suitable to Florida’s climate.
  3. The Sears in Brooksville, as shown in this captured image from Google Maps, will close next year. [Google]
    The store’s parent company had already announced the area’s last Kmart in Pinellas also is closing.
  4. Tampa is among the most friendly pet-friendly cities for renters. Pictured is downtown Tampa. [Times file photo] [Tampa Tribune]
    According to Homes.com’s recent analysis, nearly 60 percent of rentals on its site in Tampa are pet friendly.
  5. Meridian Concourse Center in Clearwater. [Avison Young]
    The Meridian Concourse Center consists of three buildings.
  6. Tech Data CEO Rich Hume (left) shares a moment with his predecessor, Bob Dutkowsky, during a send-off celebration for Dutkowsky on June 7, 2018 at the company's 
 headquarters in Largo. At the time, Tech Data had already received the first in what would become a series of purchase offers from New York-based private equity giant Apollo Global Management. Along the way, Dutkowsky would play a key role in negotiations with Apollo. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times (2018)
    Apollo Global Management has been trying to buy Tech Data for a year and a half. Along the way, four other companies were interested, too. Two made offers.
  7. At the request of a state lawmaker, Citizens Property Insurance Co.’s board is again bringing in an outside evaluator to help the insurer decide if and how to cull its policyholder base. Pictured is  Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) (left) and Barry Gilway, CEO of Citizens. [Courtesy of Sen. Jeff Brandes and Citizens Property Insurance Co.]
    At the request of St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes, the insurer will look for ways to shrink.
  8. In addition to offering groceries through Prime Now, Amazon has just launched Amazon Fresh in Tampa Bay. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
    The online retailer branches out beyond the Whole Foods’ organic products it already offers.
  9. Pinellas County Commission chairwoman Karen Seel said a Tampa economic development group's recent decision to put "Tampa Bay" into its name "does great harm to the progress we have made on regional collaboration."
    But in Tampa, the chief executive officer of the nonprofit, government-supported economic development group is giving no sign of backing off the new name.
  10. This holiday season could be a record for travel. According to AAA, the Auto Club Group. Pictured is traffic on the Bayside Bridge in Clearwater in October. [Times file photo] [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
    According to AAA, the Auto Club Group, more Americans are traveling this year than previous years.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement