Lenoir City tries again on events chief

Jeremy Nash News-Herald.net

Lenoir City Council unanimously voted Monday to hire Sousa, with Councilman Mike Henline motioning and Councilman Bobby Johnson Sr. seconding. She will assume the position Aug. 22.

Sousa has served as executive director for Farragut Business Alliance since October 2010. She also operates Word’s Out Marketing & PR LLC in a part-time capacity. Sousa has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration and has more than 30 years of experience in marketing.
“From the day I heard about the position I knew it was meant to be,” Sousa said. “It perfectly ties together my education, my experience and my skill set in my own backyard, in my own community, and it’s just like coming home. It’s great.”
City council originally hired Michelle Lynn, who is currently assistant director with the New Bern-Craven County Convention and Visitor Center, for the position in June.
Lenoir City Administrator Amber Scott said Lynn, who was set to take over Aug. 1, backed out July 22 for “personal reasons.” Lynn’s departure left city officials “very surprised,” Scott said.
Before Lynn’s hire, city officials received 25-30 applicants and narrowed the search to five interviews.
Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens said he was optimistic Sousa would succeed.
“The only reason that she didn’t apply before was because she was out of town, and she didn’t realize it,” Aikens said. “It was all over said and done before she knew it. Then when we found out that she — the personnel committee had interviewed her for an assistant director’s job. She wasn’t over-excited about that because it didn’t pay enough, and then, of course, when the lady backed out, obviously we’d be foolish I believe to go to the expense of re-advertising it and ... they’re giving a completion date of Sept. 29 (for the event center), but we need somebody on board now.”
The event center director’s salary will be $50,000-$60,000, Scott said in a previous interview.
“She’s very experienced as far as marketing, advertising,” Scott said about Sousa. “She has a lot of good contacts in the area, and I think she has a lot of good ideas for how to make the event center a successful facility for our community and all the surrounding areas by bringing together all of that experience and using it to the advantage of the community.”
Aikens said he believes Sousa will have a “very tough job ahead of her” to get the new event center up and running. To help, city officials and Sousa will look for an assistant director. A timeline has not been given on when that hire will occur.
“I think time is of the essence, and I think that we need to — as a matter of fact I’ve talked to the city administrator and asked her to get with Ms. Sousa and ask her to try to coordinate that and try to get some advertising done in order to try to get somebody in here for an interview,” Aikens said. “We had interviewed a couple of people for that job and unfortunately they (were) making more money.”
Sousa said “word of mouth” marketing will be key in building early support for the event center.
“I think there’s a lot of momentum already going into the process,” she said. “I think that speaking with the civic clubs and the business community will really perpetuate the word of mouth.”