Hugh Stump was fired Wednesday as executive director of Greater Gadsden Tourism.
The vote took place at the end of the Etowah County Tourism Council meeting at The Venue at Coosa Landing.
The board also voted to offer the position of interim director to Tynette Lynch, director of hospitality and tourism for the city of Hoover.
Board member Craig Inzer Jr., president of the Etowah County Commission, made a motion to immediately terminate Stump’s employment. Attala Mayor Larry Means seconded the proposal.
The board went into executive session before voting. Inzer, Means, board vice chair Jamie Moore, board secretary Kirkland Back and Lana Gaskin Bellew voted to fire Stump. Board President Kendall Hamilton, Jeff Overstreet and Sidney Butler Gunter voted to retain him.
Nanda Patel, whose status as a representative of the hotel industry is reportedly in dispute as she no longer owns a hotel, abstained.
Stump has served as director of tourism since September 2009. He previously served as executive director of the Oxford (Miss) Convention and Visitors Bureau, and prior to that was manager of planning and marketing for the City of Oxford.
“It’s a shame, but I enjoyed my time here,” Stump said in a phone interview after the meeting. “I love working here and thank all the people who have supported me and Etowah County tourism.”
Means, who recently returned to the board as a representative of the Etowah County Mayors Association, pointed to what he called Stump’s lack of communication and personality conflicts with local mayors.
“I had the same problem (with Stump) when I was on the board before,” Means said. “Hugh wouldn’t go meet with mayors or elected officials or businesses or anything. Also, I have a problem with him making a statement that he had “almost a full-time job” as chairman of the (Etowah County Mega Sports Complex) Authority. It’s his full-time job.
“He didn’t have a good relationship with people, he didn’t call elected officials,” he said. “He didn’t call (Gadsden Mayor) Craig Ford until January when he was elected in (September).”
Means said Stump also “didn’t want to go see Sherman (Guyton, former Gadsden mayor) when I tried to get him, just to have coffee and ask, ‘What can I do for you,'” noting that most of the local tourism money “comes from Gadsden.
Ford, in an emailed statement, called the board’s decision “difficult but necessary.”
He added, “Gadsden and Etowah County’s tourism efforts are paramount to growth as our community reimagines its future together. I’m glad to see bold new leadership coming to our county’s tourism department, and I’m excited to see positive new things happen in Gadsden.”
Inzer, the County Commission appointee to the board and another new member, criticized what he described as recent purchases by the tourism office, even though they were approved by the board.
“There are new members on the board and new things happening in this city,” he said. “As president of the County Commission, we work diligently to work as a county with all of our cities and mayors.
“As Larry said, there is a personality trait (with Stump) that is not conducive to what we’re trying to do with our mayors association and commission. We feel there is a need for change and new leadership (because of) the new direction the county and the city are moving in.”
Bellew, appointed by Rep. Mac Butler, R-Rainbow City; Back, appointed by Ford; Guenther, appointed by Rep. Craig Lipscomb, R-Gadsden; and Overstreet, appointed by Sen. Andrew Jones, R-Centre, are new board members.
Holders Hamilton and Moore were appointed by the Gadsden & Etowah County Chamber and Rep. Mark Gidley, R-Gadsden, respectively.
Hamilton, Inzer and Moore were selected as a subcommittee to assist Lynch and search for a full-time replacement for Stump.
Stump said since he is no longer on the tourism board, he will step down from other boards he serves on, such as the Mega Sports Complex Authority and the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourism Association.
“We have options that we’re looking at,” Stump said of his future. “They may include staying here or moving.”
Stump, in a statement later Wednesday, said he was “proud of the tourism improvements we’ve made in Gadsden and Etowah County” during his tenure, noting that according to state Department of Tourism records, lodging tax revenue in the county have grown by 67% and tourist spending by 57% by 2021.
He cited events “that have garnered regional, national and international attention” such as the Barbarian Challenge, which he said drew 15,000 people to Noccalula Falls Park over a decade; the Bassmaster Elite, FLW Toyota Series and Bassmaster Central Open fishing tournaments chartered at Neely Henry Lake; and the recent Alabama Fishing Show and Exposition.
Stump said he’s “very proud of the regional partnerships we’ve formed with groups like the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourism Association, the Alabama Bass Trail, the AL/MS/TN Countryside Tourism Conference, the Lookout Mountain Parkway Association and the Southeast Association festivals and events, organizations where I was a board member and board president,” which helped “spread the word about the beauty of Etowah County’s natural resources . . . .
He spoke of “driving the regional and national message that Gadsden is the ‘home’ of the world’s longest yard sale,” which increased attendance and visitor spending for that sale, and spending “countless hours and sponsorship dollars helping for growing the cultural scene in the county,” supporting groups such as the Gadsden Museum of Art, the Gadsden Symphony Orchestra, the Hardin Center, the Walnut Gallery, the Etowah Youth Orchestras, the Theater of Gadsden and others.
Stump said he will miss the friendships he and his wife, Gigi, developed in Etowah County and thanked the board members “who took the time to learn about tourism and gave me the ability to be creative, develop new ideas and strategies and work for Etowah County.