Umatilla County selected a new coordinator for economic development and tourism. County Commissioner Bill Elfering said the county board aims to announce the hire after the candidate passes a background check, which may take a couple of weeks to complete.
Elfering also floated the idea of a county-wide transient room tax. Under Oregon law, he said 70 percent of that revenue would go toward tourism.
“Tourism is economic development,” Elfering said.
The new coordinator post comes with an annual salary of $42,348 or $51,132 plus benefits and dependent on qualifications, said Jennifer Blake, county director of human resources. Elfering said the departure of a senior department head is helping pay for the post.
Tamra Mabbott left the county planning director job in August for a position with the city of Umatilla. Elfering said the county allocated 20 percent of Mabbott’s time to assisting him with economic development, but she probably did more. She was a senior employee, he said, so the difference between her salary and a new hire is substantial.
Additional funding for the post will come from ending the contract the county has with the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce for tourism promotion. County counsel Doug Olsen said the county is carrying that month to month, so ending it will not come with legal repercussions.
The county advertised the coordinator job in September. Elfering said 10 people applied, and he and a hiring panel whittled that to four, then one applicant dropped out. The panel interviewed the trio Monday.
The panel consists of Elfering, Blake and the following: Mike Watkins, Milton-Freewater community development supervisor; Mark Morgan, Hermiston assistant city manager; Mike Short of Round Up City Development Corporation; and Susan Bower, owner of Eastern Oregon Business Source.
He said the panelists represent the array of people and groups the new hire will have to work with, so their input was essential.
Elfering also said he is making the rounds with local city officials on a county-wide transient tax. That would help the county promote local tourism of smaller events, such as Athena’s Caledonian Games or the Milton-Freewater Rocks Festival. He also said the new coordinator could shoulder promoting agriculture tourism and new events, perhaps even “A Taste of Umatilla County” to showcase local food and drink.
Contact Phil Wright at email@example.com or 541-966-0833.