Monica Smith is learning new things about Macon all the time.
When she informed her family that she was accepting the job as the new president and CEO of the Macon-Bibb County Convention & Visitors Bureau, she found out her great-grandparents grew up in Macon.
That learning process is continuing for Smith, who was formally introduced Thursday as the CVB’s new leader. She started work July 1 and has spent the past two weeks getting to know the community and her organization.
“The great thing I’ve experienced since I’ve been here is how everybody is supportive of the CVB, which is great,” said Smith, who was previously the director of sales and marketing for the CVB in Pasadena, Calif. “There’s a consensus of things that need changing, but most people are excited to work with me and for me to work with them.”
Smith said she’s already been meeting with the CVB staff as well as people who operate the city’s various attractions. She said she plans to meet members of Bibb County and Macon’s governments in the coming weeks.
“I’ve already (been talking to officials) a bit,” she said. “It’s going to take some time, but I plan to be out and about.”
Ann Smith, chairwoman of the CVB’s board of directors, said Monica Smith embodies all the qualities the board wanted in a new leader to replace Janice Marshall, who retired this year.
“She has 13 years of experience in the industry and brings a fresh perspective to this market,” Ann Smith said of the new president. “She’s respected in the tourism industry by her peers and has a proven record in increasing sales. ... I know she’s been actively meeting with staff and board members.”
Andy Ambrose, director of the Tubman African American Museum, said he met Monica Smith for the first time Wednesday and looks forward to working with her.
“I’m very excited about her experience,” he said. “I think (her coming from outside of Macon) is something that will be beneficial, since it’s a new eye looking at things.”
Chip Cherry, president and CEO of the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce, concurred.
“She’s a welcome addition to our community,” he said. “Janice did an awesome job and put together a great staff. (Smith) brings a fresh perspective.”
Smith said she’s learning about Macon’s attractions, including the Ocmulgee Indian Mounds, Lake Tobesofkee and various museums, as well as events such as the Cherry Blossom Festival.
“These are assets that can be utilized to help attract more business to the area,” she said.
Smith said she worked closely with California Institute of Technology and other Pasadena-area colleges and universities to see what sort of convention business they might draw, and she said she hopes to do the same with the colleges here.
Smith said she’s aware of criticism the CVB drew last year about its effectiveness from several members of the community, including Councilmen Erick Erickson and Larry Schlesinger.
“It’s important to know the perception of the organization,” she said. “It’s not appropriate at this time to address, because I’ve not fully evaluated the staff to see if anything needs to be remedied by me.”
Smith said she plans to spend the rest of the year evaluating how things work in the CVB. She said one of her priorities is using technology to a greater degree.
“That’s probably going to be our biggest focus,” she said.
Smith said she also plans to look at how Macon is promoted.
“We need to look at rebranding the destination,” she said. “We’ve had the same identity for 10 years. It’s time to freshen it up a little bit. That’s always a collaborative effort.”
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.