Tennessean Susan Whitaker Named State Tourism Director Of The Year

Monday, August 19, 2013

Susan Whitaker, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, has been named the State Tourism Director of the Year.

The award is voted upon annually by the U.S. Travel Association’s National Council of State Tourism Directors. Ms. Whitaker was announced as the winner before about 600 of her peers Monday at the ESTO conference of tourism professionals in Richmond, Va.

“Susan is a wonderful representative for Tennessee. I’ve had the pleasure of working with her on any number of critical travel issues and always appreciate her insight,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association. “Susan gets it. She appreciates the power of travel to benefit communities, businesses and individuals. This tremendous recognition by Susan’s peers reflects her passion for travel, and I know we all look forward to her many future contributions.”

Ms. Whitaker’s selection drew immediate praise from top dignitaries in her home state.

“This honor is well-deserved,” said Governor Bill Haslam. “Susan and her staff bring innovative ideas and vision to Tennessee’s thriving tourism industry, and the accomplishments under her leadership will have a lasting impact on Tennessee."

“Susan is not only a friend of mine but she’s one of the best friends that our Tennessee tourism industry has ever known,” said entertainer Dolly Parton, formerly Ms. Whitaker’s boss at Dollywood, Tennessee’s most-visited tourist attraction. “Susan makes sure that the welcome mat is always out for folks who want to visit our great state, and I appreciate her enthusiasm, dedication, and get-it-done attitude!”

Ms. Whitaker’s major accomplishments for Tennessee include the launch of the Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways program which features 16 comprehensive, statewide trails in all of Tennessee’s 95 counties and along the state’s five National Scenic Byways. As the co-chairwoman of Tennessee’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, Ms. Whitaker is a strategic part of the planning and overseeing of Tennessee’s 150th Civil War commemoration, including the launch of the Tennessee Civil War Trails Program. Ms. Whitaker launched Tennessee’s Sustainable Tourism initiative with the 2008 Great Smoky Mountain Sustainable Tourism Summit, positioning the state as a national leader in sustainable tourism.

The STDOTY award is given to the professional whose leadership has led to the measurable improvement of his or her state’s travel and tourism profile. Each year, such success is measured in relationship to the budgetary and staff resources that the director has at their disposal.

Candidates are nominated by other state/territory tourism directors and a slate of three finalists is presented for selection by ballot.

Ms. Whitaker is the third Tennessean to win the award since its founding in 1970, following Tom Jackson in 1978 and Sandra Fulton in 1993.


Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern Opens Next Weekend

The Dark Legacy of Elder Shaw themes this year’s Haunted Cavern at Ruby Falls for its 11 th   season, opening   Friday   and   Saturday, Sept. 26 and 27 , every Friday - Sunday , beginning   Oct. 3   till   Nov. 1 , as well as   Oct. 9 . Get in line by   7:30 p.m. nightly for the Freak Parade if you dare. ... (click for more)

Tennessee's Fall-tastic Festivals

With cooler temperatures come a plethora of festivals in Tennessee that will pack any fall calendar. World-renown food festivals, lots of concerts, and a new museum honoring the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll are just some of the things happening in the Volunteer State during the autumnal months. It’s time to throw on some layers, grab a pumpkin spice latte, and travel to Tennessee to enjoy ... (click for more)

Woman Shot And Killed In Catoosa County Residence

A woman is dead after a shooting in Catoosa County. According to Sheriff Gary Sisk, around noon on Friday, sheriff’s deputies and investigators responded to 227 Smoketree Circle, Ringgold, Catoosa County, in reference to a subject being shot.   Upon arrival, officers located two females and one male at the residence. One of the women was observed lying at ... (click for more)

Trooper Discovers Large Amount Of Drugs On Traffic Stop In Marion County

A member of the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s East Bureau Interdiction Plus team initiated a traffic stop   on Thursday   in Marion County that resulted in the discovery of 60 pounds of marijuana. During the traffic stop, the suspect fled the scene and is at large at this time. Trooper Brent McCawley stopped a Lexus ES300 for a traffic violation on Interstate 24 westbound ... (click for more)

You’re Right With Lamar

One of Tennessee’s favorite sons, Davy Crockett, coined an oft-used phrase:  “Be always sure you’re right, then go ahead.” Being sure is quite important, but may be difficult in this election cycle. The Democratic nominee campaigning against Lamar Alexander is a man whose radio ads call for “change,” “fair” taxes and more jobs.  Sounds good, huh?   ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies

Okay … here we go. A number of readers have complained that I haven’t shared any jokes that my friends send to my email address so on a weekend when our Volunteers and Mocs are idle, let’s laugh a little:   I was sitting in a bar one afternoon with an old friend knocking back a few beers when he said, "You know, if we're not careful we'll end up like those two old drunks ... (click for more)