Anderson/Madison County Visitors Blog
I write this blog—my final one for the Anderson/Madison County Visitors Bureau—on the morning of May 1. Exactly three years to the day of when I began my wonderful journey with this organization.
That morning was similar to today. The sun shone brightly, the morning temperature was pleasant, and the color of spring was plentiful on the grounds of the Visitors Center. Shortly after arriving, Levi Rinker, who I would get to know and like very well over the next three years, delivered the Bureau’s Walking Man statue. Ralph Day—who was retiring after leading the Bureau for close to 30 years—and I posed for a photo with the Walking Man, and my first official task as the new executive director was complete.
There are two things I would have never guessed on that morning three years ago. First, I didn’t realize how much I was going to truly love this job. Second, I never would have guessed that I would be saying goodbye just three years later.
This job has been so much fun. It has allowed me to use my imagination. It has allowed me to be very active in the community. It has allowed me to promote a great county and numerous great attractions.
I’ve said many times that Anderson and Madison County have an enviable list of attractions for an area of our size. Hoosier Park, Anderson Speedway, the Gaither organization, Anderson University, Indianapolis Colts Training Camp, Paramount Theatre, Anderson Symphony Orchestra, White River Paint Ball and Zip Lines, Indy Scream Park, Anderson Young Ballet Theatre, Mounds State Park, Falls Park, and great festivals and events makeup just a partial list of the great attractions we have. Couple our attractions with our proximity to Indianapolis and it is easy to see why our hotels have such a high occupancy rate.
The job has also allowed me to work with a great group of people throughout the county. I can’t possibly list everyone that has had a big impact on the Bureau and me, but I do want to note a few people who have made a big difference. The first is the outstanding staff at the Bureau: Esther Cleary, Diana Graves, and Maureen Lambert. Each of them works hard for the community. All of our successes were team efforts. Their spouses, John Cleary, Bob Graves, and Joe Lambert have also been ready and willing to help whenever needed.
The Bureau board of directors has empowered and encouraged me every step of the way. I was fortunate to have Mark Lamey and George Vinson serve as board chairs during my tenure. Their leadership and guidance were exemplary. The Bureau’s treasurers during my tenure—and for many years prior—have been Tim Thomas and Rick Fulaytar. Their efforts have helped the Bureau be debt free. The leaders of our attractions and hotels have also been great partners in tourism.
There are others who became unofficial members of the team at various times. Lynzi Scharton at Hoosier Park designed the “Fun Starts Here!” logo that has become so well known throughout the area and so recognizable with the Bureau. Lynzi also developed our advertising campaign, business cards, letterhead, etc. The Bureau “look” is most definitely a Lynzi Scharton production! Brian Wrasman and his team at CrossPointe Studios have been invaluable to us. Brian developed our web site and video marketing materials, among many other things. Rick Nettrouer and his team at T-Max Graphics took the design Lynzi developed for the Bureau and turned it into a brand. They have also been instrumental in making the Visitors Center a facility that promotes and markets the county at every turn. Rarely a week goes by that I don’t communicate with Brian and Rick numerous times. Heather Bremer at the Herald Bulletin designs, writes, produces, and basically does everything with the Discover Magazine. It is a great publication and Heather is 100% the reason why. Dale Pickett has provided images to us that have helped promote the area throughout the United States and have turned the walls of the Visitors Center into a visual promotion of our home that is second to none. Dick Zarse and his team at Broadway Press are always on my speed dial! Jim Tanner has helped us develop our brand through merchandise and clothing. Mike Kase and Hoosier Park partner with the Bureau to promote the area at trade shows around the country, resulting in numerous visitors to Madison County. Aaron Reger and First Merchants Bank have been with us every step of the way.
The Bureau is not a political organization. The executive director is not appointed by a political body. But, we do work closely with our local municipalities. Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith and Alexandria Mayor Jack Woods have been ready to partner with us at a moment’s notice. The leaders of Pendleton, Elwood, and the entire county have been great friends and partners too. The Bureau has great synergy with economic development efforts and Greg Winkler and his team in Anderson, and Rob Sparks and his team with the Madison County CED are as good as it gets.
I also want to acknowledge Ralph Day. I mentioned Ralph earlier when I reminisced about my first day on the job. I couldn’t have asked for a better person to follow. Ralph left me an organization that was strong and financially fit. He essentially built this organization and in many ways was synonymous with the Visitors Bureau. He could have cast a very long shadow, but he didn’t. He willingly stepped back and let me establish my own identity. He was always available when I needed him, but I never felt as though he was looking over my shoulder. He was always supportive of all of our efforts. I hope to be as gracious with my successor as Ralph was with me.
Finally, everything I do is done with my family—wife Jessica and sons James and Sam—in tow. James has also been a colleague, as he works the Bureau’s front desk during the summer. They are so supportive and loving. I couldn’t ask for a better support system!
Now I am off to Community Hospital Anderson as VP/Chief Foundation Officer. There are very few organizations that I would have ever considered leaving the Bureau to join. Community Hospital Anderson is one of them. I have been able to work with them through the years on various committees and boards. I have always been impressed with its culture and impact. I once again get to succeed a friend, this time Keith Trent, who has been a dear friend and role model for years. I am blessed to be able to follow in his footsteps. I am excited to be able to work with Beth Tharp, Linda West, Leah Campbell, and the rest of the outstanding team at Community. I hate leaving the Visitors Bureau, but I can’t wait to get started at Community!
Thank you to everyone mentioned in this blog and to the many, many others who I simply did not have the space to list. Your friendship, talent, and effort have been appreciated and impactful. It has been a hell of a ride!
News, notes, and thoughts— A big congratulations to the Bureau’s director of community relations, Diana Graves. Diana just celebrated 25 years of service to the Bureau. She has filled many roles for the Bureau through the years and has always done so with a friendly personality and a great sense of humor…I enjoyed the dedication of the new Anderson Community Park this week. My dad, Jim Bannon, was among the initial class of honorees. Congratulations to all of the families of those honored…Dad was also honored last week with induction into the Anderson Community Schools Hall of Fame. I was pleased to be able to represent Dad and the family at the ceremony. Congrats to all of the inductees. It was an outstanding class of individuals…Finally; Dad’s big week also included having a conference room named in his honor at the Herald Bulletin. That was Dad’s work family and he would be so honored that they chose to remember him in such a way….My successor has yet to be named at the Visitors Bureau. Interviews are underway and they hope to have someone on board June 1. Whoever it is, support them in their efforts to promote this great county!
--Tom Bannon is executive director of the Anderson/Madison County Visitors Bureau