Cecil County Tourism Chief Seeks Separate Agency, and Pay Raise
Sandy Maruchi Turner, Cecil County‚Äôs tourism co-ordinator, asked the County Commissioners Tuesday to break off tourism promotion programs from the county‚Äôs Economic Development department and create a separate agency, with a pay raise for the new ‚Äúdepartment head.‚ÄĚ
Turner told Cecil Times after the commissioners‚Äô worksession that she was more familiar with the figure for her take-home pay but believed her gross annual salary is currently $67,000. She said she had no idea what the appropriate pay increase should be for her position if the Commissioners were to agree with the proposal to split tourism into a separate county department.
Turner presented a ‚Äútourism strategic plan‚ÄĚ to the commissioners, approved by the Cecil County Tourism Committee, a volunteer group that advises on tourism promotion. Included in that plan was the proposal to sever tourism programs, and the co-ordinator‚Äôs position, from the Economic Development department.
The tourism office is currently located in free office space provided by the Perryville Outlets, while the Economic Development office is located in the county office building in Elkton. In the past, Turner advocated a separate tourism office in the so-called ‚Äúpink house‚ÄĚ on the edges of the Cecil College campus in North East, far from tourist attractions. But that effort eventually failed after a previous commissioners‚Äô board deemed the costs of renovating the aging structure to be too high and the location too remote from prime tourism areas.
‚ÄúTourism often ends up as an after-thought‚ÄĚ in the county‚Äôs economic development efforts, Turner told the commissioners Tuesday. She said it was ‚Äúthe right time‚ÄĚ to separate tourism from the economic development department since the county is poised to interview candidates for a new Director of Economic Development. Vernon Thompson, the county‚Äôs longtime economic development director and a former deputy secretary of the state‚Äôs Department of Business and Economic Development, was ousted by a three-member majority of the current county commissioners in late August.
‚ÄúTourism is an economic development engine,‚ÄĚ Turner said. But ‚Äúwhen you have two engines on the same train, only one can lead,‚ÄĚ she added.
She advocated severing the tourism programs from economic development functions and installing the tourism chief as a department head. And, ‚Äúwith additional duties,‚ÄĚ she said, ‚ÄúI would make a larger salary.‚ÄĚ
However, she also told the commissioners that there would be no extra costs for additional staff or special initiatives for tourism programs if a separate department were to be created.
Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4), who has often promoted tourism as the answer to the county‚Äôs economic development issues and financial problems, agreed with Turner and said, ‚ÄúNow is the time‚ÄĚ to sever tourism from the economic development departmental umbrella.
Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) said he wanted to evaluate the cost-benefit ratio of the steps Turner advocated. If it can be shown that the county will get an appropriate return on such an investment, ‚ÄúI‚Äôll consider it,‚ÄĚ he said.
But the political reality is that Broomell, who increasingly controls a three-member voting majority, endorsed Turner‚Äôs proposals. It remains to be seen what that will cost taxpayers.