Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton is taking a second crack at finding an executive to head Visit St. Pete/Clearwater.
Burton has announced three new finalists for president and CEO for the county’s tourism agency. The staff of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater and the Tourist Development Council make recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners on how to use the bed tax, a 6 percent tax collected on accommodations in Pinellas County rented for less than six months.
It’s a high-profile job, because tourism is the county’s major industry, but there’s been no one in the post on a permanent basis since long-time CEO David Downing resigned in January. Former Busch Gardens leader James Dean served about two months on an interim basis before he left for another job.
The county broadened its search for a VSPC head after Burton’s initial round of picks last May.
“We expanded our nationwide search and found extremely well qualified talent in these candidates,” Burton said in a news release.
The new finalists are:
Christopher Barrett, president and CEO, Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau, a four-county destination. He’s held that job since 2017 and has 30 years of public and private sector experience in leadership, strategic planning, budget and marketing for multiple tourism-related attractions.
Steve Hayes, president and CEO, Visit Pensacola. Hayes has led Visit Pensacola since 2013, where he developed the Destination 2020 tourism strategy for the Greater Pensacola Bay Area. Prior to his current job, he spent 25 years working for Visit Tampa Bay in various management and leadership roles including serving as executive vice president.
Jeffrey Seifried, president and CEO of Branson Lakes/Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau. Since 2015, he has overseen overall tourism vision and strategic plans, and has managed brand repositioning and new messaging strategies. His previous roles include management of regional development at the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and a stint as director of a financial institution.
Burton is looking for community input before he makes a final decision on the job. He invited members of the tourism industry and the public to a meet-and-greet event with the three finalists on Monday, Sept. 30, from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort. Those interested in attending can RSVP online or call Della Klug in Administration at 727-464-3485.