By LISA WHALEY
General Manager & Editor
For Jonesborough Director of Tourism and Marketing Alicia Phelps, this will not be an easy goodbye.
“I started during Jonesborough Days, and I’ll end during Jonesborough Days” said Phelps who recently accepted a position as executive director of Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association.
Her last day will be July 2, she said, and she describes her news as “bittersweet.”
“It was definitely a hard decision,” Phelps said, looking over her almost empty desk in her office in the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center. “I saw myself as retiring from Jonesborough. But I’m glad I still get to work with Jonesborough and I’m really looking forward to watching what Jonesborough is on the verge of becoming.”
“We can all feel the energy and I’m glad I could be a part of it. I’m still a part of it.”
Phelps has been playing a role in Jonesborough’s energy for the past six years, coming on board in 2010 from a job in Emory & Henry College’s marketing department for a position that she describes as both exciting and challenging.
“I was, of course, overwhelmed,” she recalls. “All of the sudden I had a staff and had gone from being someone’s assistant to tourism director. But everyone was so helpful.”
Her tools, a bachelor’s from Emory and Henry and a master’s from King College, certainly helped, but it was the people, she said, who made the biggest difference.
“When I first came, I was taken aback by how folks in Jonesborough worked together, both from the town side as well as the business side,” Phelps said. “We don’t always see eye to eye, but we all have the same goal.”
Phelps soon discovered this unity of purpose was what set Jonesborough apart. “It set the standard of how when we do work together, each area benefits,” she said.
As she prepares to leave, Phelps said a few accomplishments stand out for her.
“I am definitely proud of our new website,” she said. “I’m proud about our walking tour brochure.”
She is also excited about the new visitors guide that will debut this fall.
But Phelps is also looking forward to the new challenges she will face at NETTA.
NETTA’s retiring executive director, Claudia Moody, has been a mentor to her over the years.
“I’m sad to see her go,” Phelps said. “I’m still sad about that.
“But I’m ready to put my spin on the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association. Claudia has left a legacy nobody can touch. I’m looking to just turn the page into a new chapter.”
Part of that new chapter, she hopes, will involve many of the things she had learned in Jonesborough, especially those involving the new realm of marketing and social media.
Still, Phelps believes nothing will ever break her ties to Jonesborough, its people and, of course, the staff.
“We all fight like brothers and sisters here, but when it comes down to it, we all love each other and are family,” she said. And in her new position, she’ll maintain a role with Tennessee’s oldest town, in addition to the other communities of Northeast Tennessee.
”I’ll be working with Washington County and Jonesborough still,” she said.