When JoElla O’Connell, 53, of DeWitt, was laid off from her job as director of the DeWitt Chamber of Commerce she was already planning how to continue directing tourism to the Clinton County area. Instead of looking for a new job, she decided to create one: Clinton County Tourism Director. For the past few months she’s been seeking city and county government support to create and award her the position.
“I want people to come to Clinton County. There’s just so much it has to offer,” she said.
O’Connell started at the Chamber nearly 19 years ago as an office assistant performing clerical work. She became captivated by the tourism aspect of the organization she worked for.
“I fell in love with it. It became my life,” she said.
She served as the director of the Chamber for the last eight years. Last fall she looked into what communities in the county had websites, what they had to offer and if it was promoted. O’Connell saw an opportunity for improvement and collaboration.
“We need to expand. We need to work as one,” she said.
On May 1, O’Connell was informed her position would be eliminated as the Chamber was combined with the Economic Development arm in DeWitt. On May 31, she hit the ground running.
She said she’s spent countless hours researching responsibilities of a tourism director. After compiling a detailed job description to strengthen her case, O’Connell focused on finding more support, including monetary.
O’Connell collaborated with Clinton County Conservation to apply for a grant through the Clinton County Development Association. If awarded the grant, the money would go towards starting an office for the position, she said. She hopes to find a match for the grant to fund the salary.
Since she started pursuing the position, she and her husband, Joe, have spent weekends discovering all of the tourist attractions the county has to offer, many of which, O’Connell said, are not being fully promoted. As the County Tourism Director she would work to promote attractions and events throughout the county, region and state, she said. Weekly e-mail blasts, brochures and glossy booklets would be among the tools O’Connell plans to utilize.
“This is an exciting thing to get the county working on as a whole. Tourism is economic development,” she said.
When she’s not researching, O’Connell enjoys baking and decorating cakes, sewing, cross stitching and gardening.
She and her husband have two grown children, a son and a daughter.