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FORT SMITH -- The advertising and promotions commission for the state's second-largest city made significant headway in the search for its new executive director.

After discussion, Fort Smith Advertising and Promotions Commission voted Tuesday to move forward with letting the city commence the search process using the St. Paul, Minn.-based firm SearchWide Global. However, this is subject to two conditions: that the city is able to negotiate a "reasonable" rate for the firm's services, and that the city would get a favorable recommendation on the firm from the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The commission also voted to adopt an updated version of the job description for the executive director position. The previous executive director, Claude Legris, announced his retirement on June 23 after serving in the position since since Feb. 19, 2001. His last day was July 10.

This all comes at a time when the City of Fort Smith is negotiating an agreement with a Los Angeles-based private firm, Oak View Group, to operate the Fort Smith Convention Center, which is managed by the advertising and promotions commission. The city subsidizes the convention center with $777,000 per year from the general fund.

In considering whether to hire an outside firm, City Administrator Carl Geffken said earlier this month that the city is examining what it has done "in the past, and are there different, better ways that can provide better service, more service at the same cost, or do the same with less cost."

Fort Smith Human Resources Director Rick Lolley said SearchWide Global contacted him a week ago. A representative of the firm told him that it had done some work in Little Rock on the same type of search, although the subject of money was not discussed.

SearchWide Global's website describes the company as a "full service executive search firm primarily for companies in the travel, tourism, hospitality, convention, trade association, venue management, experiential marketing, sports and entertainment industries."

Tim Seeberg, general manager of the convention center, commented favorably on SearchWide Global, saying that the firm is "very well-versed in this industry."

In regards to the job description, Lolley explained that it was revised with input from the commission since its last meeting July 7.

The description itself is divided into a number of sections, starting with a summary that states that the executive director administers all efforts to advertise and promote the city of Fort Smith and the surrounding area under the commission's direction, "to benefit the tourism and travel industry and economic vitality of the city, region and state." The director oversees all operations of the Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau and is responsible for the implementation of the policies and procedures the commission sets forth.

The description then goes on to describe essential duties and responsibilities of the position, supervisory responsibilities, qualification requirements, necessary education and/or experience, other required skills and abilities, physical demands and the work environment.

Lolley said the salary range for the Fort Smith Advertising and Promotions Commission executive director position is about $84,500 to $127,000. Carolyn Joyce, group sales manager for the Fort Smith Convention and Visitors Bureau, has taken on the role of interim director of the commission.


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