Tourism director going full-time

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com

This time the Osage County commissioners achieved the 3-0 vote that District 3 Commissioner Darren McKinney was looking for in February.

The commissioners voted 3-0 Monday, with District 1 Commissioner Randall Jones seconding the motion, to approve and sign a full-time contract for county Tourism Director Kelly Bland. The position has officially been part-time, but will be recognized as a full-time job as of July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

The commissioners had voted 2-1 in February to make Bland a contract offer to convert the tourism director position to full-time. Jones voted “no” in February, explaining afterward that he felt the vote was unduly hurried and he had wanted more time to explore just how much time and effort is necessary for Bland to carry out her tasks on behalf of the county.

McKinney, the board chairman, wanted to find a way to achieve a unanimous vote back in February, but Jones wasn’t ready to vote “yes.”

The vote Monday was to give final approval to the contract and sign it. McKinney said he would entertain a motion to approve, and District 2 Commissioner Kevin Paslay made that motion. Jones, however, said he still had a concern about whether the job needed to be defined as full-time. Bland is a contractor, and not a regular county employee.

“It has really expanded to that,” Bland said. She explained that she has been donating her time over and above the 20-something hours per week for which she has been paid as a part-time tourism director. Bland also said she has been willing to spend money out of her pocket to make sure Osage County tourism received the best representation possible. She gave an example of having spent some $100 of her money to buy gifts for some event judges in Texas in return for advertising for Osage County tourism.

Jones recalled something Bland had said in an earlier meeting about not being able “to do this job and be poor.” Jones said the county has more than 200 employees who go to work every day and put in their time and effort and make less than she will be making.

McKinney said what he thought Bland had actually been saying in the earlier meeting was that doing her job well had required her to pay out-of-pocket for things to such an extent that she couldn’t have done the job if she had been poor and unable to incur out-of-pocket expenses.

“I bring to you a heart that I will pour into Osage County,” Bland said Monday. “I’ve been doing a lot of things out of my own pocket because I care.”

Claud Rosendale of Barnsdall spoke Monday for the county’s Tourism Oversight Committee and recommended final approval of the contract. Bland said the contract terms were recommended by the toursim committee.

Osage County resident Jerry Butterbaugh, who is chair of the Osage County Historical Society, thanked the commissioners for approving.

“We are seeing a positive change here in all sorts of ways,” Butterbaugh said, praising the effort Bland has made to improve the county’s standing as a tourist destination.