Madison tourism director Lytle
to retire at year’s end
She has led the office for the past 21 years
(May 2016) – Linda Lytle has seen and done a lot over the years with her involvement at many levels of service in Madison, Ind. Now after 22 years of working for the city’s tourism board, VisitMadison Inc. – 21 of those years as its executive director – she is calling it quits. Earlier this year, Lytle announced to the tourism board that she plans to retire at the end of 2016.
“I plan to retire in January after finishing out this year,” said Lytle, 66, during an interview April at her office in the Lanier-Madison Visitors Center.
It is a place she has called home for a long time, directing her staff of three, planning activities and festivals, and meeting with people from throughout the community on tourism-related projects and events. She also has served on many statewide committees and is Jefferson County’s representative for this year’s Indiana Bicentennial Celebration.
“I’m proud of the job I’ve done,” Lytle said. “I’m happy with what we’ve accomplished. Marketing and tourism is a whole different kind of business. We have to anticipate what the visitor wants and be mindful of that all the time. You have to be diverse and offer something new to attract younger people and families.”
Fox, this year’s tourism board president and owner of Little Golden Fox shop on Main Street, said, “I think it will be very hard to find someone to fill Linda’s shoes. Until owning a business and serving alongside Linda, I did not realize just how much work goes into being the executive director and promoting our community. She gives 110 percent and serves with great passion and does so many things that people are not aware of. It is so much more than a 9-to-5 job, and it will be very hard to find a person who loves our community as much as her. She will definitely be missed, but I have a feeling we will still feel her presence in the promotion of our wonderful town.”
Lytle said it was time to turn that challenge over to someone younger than her “who has the same enthusiasm I had when I first started. I’m good with my decision. Unlike a lot of people, I think change is good. So I’m ready to step back and let someone else lead this office. It’s all good.”
In addition to Lytle’s departure, VisitMadison Inc.’s part-time marketing director Ann Mulligan, 66, of Patriot, Ind., also plans to retire at year’s end. She has worked at the center for the past 15 years.
Lytle said she plans to remain involved in tourism events as a volunteer but insisted that “I won’t be meddling in my successor’s business. I want that person to have full reign without any hindrance from me (as the former director).”
She said the tourism board will solicit resumes, most likely through statewide tourism networks of people working in the industry, then interview and select a new director. Lytle said she would provide her input but would not be making that decision.
She did, however, urge the tourism board earlier this year to increase the salary for the next director. Lytle said the $50,924 she currently makes “is not enough to attract the type of person Madison needs at this stage to take us to the next level.” She said other Indiana cities, such as Columbus, Corydon, Nashville, Carmel and Fishers, pay their directors much more. However, Madison is small by comparison to those cities and must rely on the innkeepers tax from local hotels and bed and breakfasts, plus profits from its festivals and other activities, to fund the tourism office’s current $422,740 annual budget.
“We’ve never had the budget the size of these other cities that we compete against, so we’ve had to be very innovative to draw people in,” she said. Lytle often says that once visitors first come to Madison, “95 percent of them come back.” She also says that 50,000 to 55,000 people come through the Visitors Center each year.
“These are mostly first-time visitors, because usually repeat visitors do not come back to the Visitors Center,” she said.
Lytle said she is anxious to see a “fresh face” taking over her office, and she is encouraged by the number of young people getting involved in the community. “I think a new, fresh outlook will be spectacular, especially with all the young people volunteering in this town.” She also cited the December retirement of Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art coordinator Georgie Kelly, whose position is now shared by two young women, co-coordinators Amy Fischmer and Jenny Youngblood. Kelly directed the Chautauqua for 18 years and stayed on last year to help transition her successors into the role.
The VisitMadison Inc. executive director, meanwhile, reports to the nine-member tourism board, which consists of volunteers from the community who represent various agencies in town plus two at-large members, all of whom rotate on and off the board via two-year terms.
Two members are appointed to the board by the Jefferson County Board of Tourism (Renie Stephens and Laura Hodges), one by the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce (Lindsay Bloos), two by the Madison City Council (Dee Comstock and Cara Fox), one by Jefferson County Council (Joe Craig), one by the City of Madison (Andrew Forrester) and two members at-large to be appointed by the VisitMadison board representing lodging, retail historic sites or Hanover College (Dave Adams and John Nyberg).
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