As the newly named interim president and CEO of the International Cherry Blossom Festival, Thomas Wicker has a lot on his plate.
He’s got to get his phone and email set up at the festival headquarters, get acquainted with the staff and meet with the festival’s treasurer. He did meet with the festival’s executive committee Monday — his first day on the job. But there are a lot more demands to come during the next six months until the festival March 24-April 2.
But there is one thing he won’t have to do. He won’t have to get a pink jacket or a closet full of pink ties.
Wicker is not a newcomer to the pinkest party in Macon. He served on the board for six years and during that time was the 2010-2011 festival chairman and 2011-2012 board chairman.
“If you had asked me in 2005, 2006 when (festival founder) Carolyn Crayton got me a pink jacket, I’d be in this role, I would have just said, ‘No,’ ” he said. “Of course, when I found out (about the new gig) I went to the closet where I keep it, pulled it out and tried it on. It still fits.”
He also pulled out about 15 pink ties.
Wicker said his goals during his tenure are what the board asked him to do.
“First and foremost has to be to have a successful 2017 festival. Obviously, that’s job one,” he said. “I want to be sure that I put things in place and do enough assessment of this festival during the time I’m here to be able to smooth the path for the person who comes behind me. Quite frankly, that’s all I can tell you at this point.”
The process for finalizing the budget is underway now, so Wicker doesn’t know what that will be yet.
“In a broader sense, while I’m here, I want to make sure we are building on the success of the festival,” he said. “This is a successful festival. ... This will be our 35th festival in 2017. We want to continue that tradition.”
He said he wants to be sure to draw support from a broad area and from businesses in the community.
“It’s the community’s festival,” he said. “It belongs to the community. ... It’s unique in some respects because of that.”
Wicker was called on to fill the job after the festival board asked Jake Ferro to step down as president/CEO earlier this month.
Wicker says job is interim only
Wicker retired about 18 months ago after 34 years at Georgia Power. While he was approached about other job opportunities, he said, “I wanted to experience and enjoy retirement.”
He and his wife have three children, five grandchildren and two more on the way. So he has been able to spend more time with his family and help watch over his grandchildren. After his father-in-law died last fall, he and his wife inherited her family farm in south Georgia, and Wicker also began working on the farm.
“So,” he said, “I was doing the things I wanted to do in retirement.”
Wicker continues to serve in a few organizations in Macon, such as NewTown Macon and the Navicent Health Foundation.
“I wanted to maintain that contact,” he said.
“When I was approached and asked to consider (the festival position), I was not looking for a job, I really didn’t want a job, I didn’t need a job and still don’t.”
He told the board that he would think about it and pray about it.
“I kept asking in my prayers, ‘Why me? Why me?’ ” he said. “The answer I kept getting back was, ‘Why not you?’ ”
So at the end of the day, he agreed to do it — with a caveat.
“It’s definitely interim,” he said.
He added that he told the board, “I want you to understand that I’m here to do this for a period of time, but I have a lot of other things on my list to do in my life. ... I’m going to stay through the next festival, the 2017 festival.”
He said that during his meeting Monday with the executive committee “I highly encouraged them to go ahead and get the search process started” for a permanent festival leader.
He agreed to stay through the end of April to take care of any follow-up issues after the festival.
“By then, certainly they would have a new person in here,” he said.