‘It all led to it’: Kendall Williams takes on role in Shelby County tourism and events

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Just sit down and talk with Kendall Williams, it’s obvious she enjoys her job.

After spending eight years as director of the Shelby County Schools Education Foundation, she ended her new position as County Tourism and Events Manager at the end of March and is already making an impact.

“Working with SCSEF, this role allowed me to stay connected within the community and I learned about every town and village in Shelby County,” Williams said. “Even though I lived here for 30 years, there were things I didn’t know before.

When the tourism and events manager position was officially published, Williams said she had done her research and spoke to various county leaders and other tourism officials to find out what the day-to-day operations were.

“Reading the description and thinking about where the job could go in Shelby County was really exciting,” she said. “I feel like everything I’ve done has led me to this job.”

Williams applied, along with 80 other applicants. She went through the two-phase interview process, and after receiving the job offer, she was hired and started a month later.

The three main roles of her position are event planning and recruiting; marketing and branding; and as the executive director of Leadership Shelby County, a group with which she was previously involved.

With Carol Bruser, the former director of LSC, leaving this post, the board of directors decided to combine this post with that of tourism and events.

“Having LSC under the county aligns it better with the goals and mission of the organization,” said Williams.

Williams graduated from LSC in 2012, began serving on the board in 2013, and has been involved ever since. She said she had implemented ways to run the program more effectively.

“During my first year as Director, being involved from the selection process through to setting up each day of the course was revealing and rewarding to know the full circle of the entire program,” said she declared.

On the tourism side, Williams said his goal is to attract three different types of tourists: residents, who are the county’s greatest ambassadors; vacationers who come for events like concerts at the Black Box Theater at the Shelby County Arts Center or to visit Oak Mountain State Park, Alabama’s largest state park; and those who come for a specific event and come back by choice.

“I started to look at the impact [this position] could be for our county and how we could make it a more attractive destination, ”she said. “What I have found is that whatever your interests, there is something here for you in Shelby County,” she said.

Shelby County already hosts several major annual events, including the XTERRA Triathlon at Oak Mountain State Park. Williams said it was nice to move from the planning side of the event to being an event partner.

“I think being on the side of the event planners gave me a unique perspective,” she said. “We don’t just support the event financially, but we let them use ATVs to move people, digital signs to help with advertising, the town of Pelham is providing police officers. It’s the mindset that has helped drive what we’ve been doing over the past six months: we just want to be a good partner for these events.

In a presentation she made at a Shelby County Chamber meeting earlier this year, Williams highlighted other popular places in the county that host events. The Pelham Racquet Club hosts many tennis tournaments, the Pelham Civic Complex hosts a national qualifying billiards event, many BUSA and club football tournaments are held in different municipalities and on the 1996 pitches on the US 280, the 4H Center in Columbiana hosts many corporate events and Lay Lake is on the Alabama Bass Trail and hosts tournaments that bring together up to 350 boats per day.

“We also recently joined Sports ETA (Association for Events and Tourism), a national organization that helps match rights holders / event organizers with destinations where their events would be suitable,” she said. .

Williams said tourism is important to the county because the lodging tax from hotels, the residual sales tax from people who buy gasoline, eat in restaurants and shop at local stores earns money. money that can be used to reinvest in communities to improve the quality of life for residents and also provide a better experience for visitors.

In 2019, the accommodation tax number budget numbers were $ 2,342,305. It took a hit during the pandemic, falling to $ 1,757,119, but rebounded in 2021 to $ 2,194,315, $ 800,000 more than budgeted.

Williams will work to find out why certain events are not being held in Shelby County and what could be done to get them here.

“If it is infrastructure and facilities, maybe we can build the structure or improve the existing facilities to maybe attract the event next year,” she said. “Part of the job I’m learning is how we can grow to attract these different events? “

An improvement for visitors, as well as for residents, is the maintenance and improvement of the trails. One project that has recently started is Double Oak Park (in Shelby County 43) and Dunnavant Valley Park (in Shelby County 41). The county purchased 750 acres of land for trails that will be used for mountain biking, hiking and running.

“Being in the planning stages has opened my eyes,” said Williams, “to think ahead of the event side when mapping trails and how we can build them to accommodate and attract people. new events in the area I learn new things every day.

Shelby County will also host several events during the 2022 World Games which begin in July. Four confirmed events will take place at Oak Mountain State Park, including wakeboarding, canoe marathon, water skiing and middle distance orienteering.

“There are a lot of details that need to be worked out to make this the best fan experience with the current infrastructure that we have,” said Williams.

If there was any benefit to the pandemic, Williams said it allowed people to look into their own backyards and find things that had been there from the start that they had never had a reason to. look for it.

“It has helped us promote the beauty and strengths of Shelby County that people might not have taken the time to explore otherwise,” she said.

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