Putnam Tourism Hires New Director

Putnam Valley native will earn $65,000

By Holly Crocco

Bruce Conklin, a native of Putnam Valley who was most recently the director of tourism for Lebanon, Missouri, has been appointed as executive director of the nonprofit Putnam County Visitors Bureau. He succeeds Libby Pataki, who resigned last year. Her former deputy, Frank Smith, has been acting director.

Bruce Conklin (photo by H. Crocco)

Conklin told members of the legislature’s Economic Development Committee on March 16 that he hopes to “integrate new and exciting things” into the bureau to make Putnam County a destination.

He said one of his immediate plans is to improve “front-facing media,” such as printed visitors’ guides, the website and social media. “My goal is to have every visitor to the county love and enjoy it here,” he said the next day during an interview.

Conklin’s hiring was announced by County Executive MaryEllen Odell at her State of the County address March 9. He will earn $65,000 annually. Smith earns $50,000 annually; Pataki earned $70,000 annually from the bureau and another $50,000 from a second tourism nonprofit she established.

In Lebanon, where he was director of tourism and marketing since 2015, Conklin’s duties included developing advertising strategies, conducting market research and promoting city and county programs, events and cultural resources. He also managed the department’s budget.

Before that job, Conklin spent nearly five years as a public works administrative assistant for the city.

Conklin, who was born in Peekskill but grew up in Putnam Valley and graduated from Walter Panas High School in Cortlandt Manor, earned an associate degree in business in 2001 from Westchester Community College and a bachelor’s degree in international business and human-resources training in 2003 from Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island.

Conklin said that while the Midwest and the East Coast have their differences, upon returning to the region he was surprised to realize their many similarities. For example, he said, the popularity of the farm-to-table movement in the Hudson Valley was something he did not expect.

“I didn’t realize agri-tourism had become such a boom here,” he said.

Conklin said working with the tourism board, the county executive and the legislature to promote tourism and increase sales-tax revenue is similar to the advisory committee and city council he reported to in Missouri.

While the Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau has historically hosted community events such as Pumpkin Palooza or Easter egg hunts at Tilly Foster Farm, Conklin said he sees the bureau acting as more of a promotional mechanism to bring people in from outside the county, as opposed to hosting events for residents.

“I enjoy what I do, and I put a fire and passion behind what I do,” he said of his work in the tourism industry. “I was a steward of tax dollars there [in Lebanon], and I will be a steward of tax dollars here, as well.”

County legislators gave Conklin a warm welcome.

“It’s good to see a Putnam Valley native come back,” said Bill Gouldman (R-Putnam Valley) at the March 16 meeting. “We wish you luck.”

One Response to "Putnam Tourism Hires New Director"

  1. Patty Villanova   March 18, 2017 at 11:28 am

    Thank you for another informative article about Putnam County government.

    As a long-time critic (with good reasons) of the Visitors’ Bureau, I will have to welcome Mr. Conklin and wish him well in his new position. Luckily, no one could be worse than the current “interim” director Frank Smith, although I note that he is going to remain on board in his no-show patronage job. So between the two directors of this tiny agency that could easily be run by one person, over a third of the budget will go to salaries and other associated costs. The remaining costs like payments to accountants, office supplies, the web site, etc., will also take up a significant amount of the appropriation leaving a pittance for actual tourism work.

    Additionally, despite his many travails, local politico Barney Molloy remains as chairman of the board. He continues to exert a great deal of influence on the day-to-day operations of the bureau as we saw when he decided to cut funding for Cold Spring’s promotional materials last year. As of today, no explanation has ever been provided by either Molloy or Smith despite numerous emails from me begging for money for our shopping brochures, radio ads and maps.

    Given the circumstances, Mr. Conklin will have very little “wiggle room” when it comes to doing his job. It sounds like nobody told him yet that Cold Spring is the only real tourist attraction in the county. When he mentions agribusiness it sounds to me like he’s been hired to promote the disastrous Tilly Foster Farm, but that’s just my cynical take on things.

    I do wish Mr. Conklin the best of luck and hope that we are not disappointed in his tenure.

    Reply

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