Pawhuska Chamber hires Bland to succeed Joni Nash

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Kelly Bland, executive director of Osage County Tourism, last week accepted an offer to become the next executive director of the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce. Her stated intention is to hold both posts at once.

“This is what fuels me,” Bland told county Tourism Oversight Committee members regarding the additional responsibility and pressure to perform that she will be taking on.

Kelly Bland

Joni Nash, who has been executive director of the chamber for the past six years, announced May 3 to the City Council that she was resigning to pursue other options. Nash said at the time that she would likely remain in the chamber leadership job until the end of May.

Bland, in a meeting Tuesday, May 11, in Shidler sought the blessing of the Osage County Tourism Oversight Committee, which supervises her work for the county, to take the chamber position. Bland said she had also had contact with the county commissioners, and that Assistant District Attorney Ashley Kane had examined her contract and found no provisions that would prevent the move.

Tourism committee members Randi Chesbro, of Pawhuska and Charlotte Hall of Skiatook both commented they thought that Bland taking on the Pawhuska Chamber position in addition to her county tourism promotion duties would be a “win-win.”

“I agree. It’s a win-win situation,” said Claud Rosendale, of Barnsdall.

There was no opposition among the Tourism Oversight Committee members present last Tuesday in Shidler, and Bland said she also consulted by telephone with committee members who were not able to attend that meeting.

“I was honored to be considered because I feel like it’s a respecting of what we’re doing here,” Bland told the Tourism Oversight Committee in regard to the offer from the Pawhuska Chamber.

Bland said last Wednesday that she had accepted the Pawhuska Chamber’s offer following the Tourism Committee’s meeting. She said that she did not know the exact date at which she would assume the chamber responsibilities.

“It’s a gift, an opportunity to serve,” Bland said. “This is what I love doing. I can’t wait.”

She also said that she thinks having one person handle Osage County Tourism and Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce duties will have a positive effect.

“I think the combination of these two positions is going to be an asset for Osage County for years to come,” Bland said.

Christi McNeil, board president for the Pawhuska Chamber, on Friday confirmed to the Journal-Capital that the chamber had formally approved hiring Bland.

Bland and Nash have worked closely together, and Bland expressed admiration for the job that Nash has done for the chamber.

The movement toward Bland taking responsibility for both positions came at the same time that members of the Tourism Oversight Committee worked to adopt a revised contract renewal for Bland in regard to the county tourism position.

The committee had previously recommended a contract renewal that included language regarding a bonus, and language regarding automatic renewals in the future.

The county commissioners on April 26 voted 2-1, with District 1 Commissioner Randall Jones voting “no,” to conditionally approve the contract renewal, pending a response from the office of the state Auditor and Inspector.

Ashley Kane, who provides legal advice for the commissioners, said the Auditor and Inspector’s office did not find any reason why the county could not pay the proposed bonus, but also did not did not offer any clear endorsement for the idea.

Additionally, Kane said the Auditor and Inspector’s Office objected to the automatic renewal language. Kane said she disagreed to some extent with the Auditor and Inspector’s office’s reasoning on that issue.

Out of caution, the District Attorney’s office had recommended the Tourism Oversight Committee revisit the contract renewal and make alterations. The committee on last Tuesday approved a contract renewal proposal for Bland that dropped the automatic renewal language and the bonus language, and instead proposed to county commissioners a $1.10-per-hour raise for Bland.

Rosendale said the marginal raise would amount to somewhat more than $2,000 per year.

“I felt we owed her something,” Rosendale said.

The contract renewal was scheduled to be back before the county commissioners for approval on Monday, May 17.

Jones, in a telephone conversation with the Journal-Capital, questioned whether Bland would be able to do both jobs at the same time. He also said the county’s lodging tax revenue, which is used in support of tourism promotion, cannot be spent on economic development efforts other than tourism.