Bay County's Tourist Development Director is getting a new three year deal that includes a salary hike. At Tuesday's combined board meeting of the Tourist Development Council and Convention & Visitors Bureau, board members gave Dan Rowe a vote of confidence and a set of goals to accomplish.
Rowe currently earns a salary of about $150,000 annually; the new contract includes a 10% raise and is retroactive to October 2012.
Outgoing chairman Gary Walsingham, who served on a review committee with incoming chairman Andy Phillips and Panama City Beach Mayor Gayle Oberst, outlined a number of objectives for Rowe. They include preparation of a staffing plan with an organizational structure, job descriptions and a formal employee performance review process; development of a long-range non-marketing strategic plan; growth of capital reserves; research into public/private partnership options; and, implementing a system of in-depth market analysis.
The board praised Rowe for his success in marketing Panama City Beach as a tourist destination, but board members Mike Thomas and Buddy Wilkes voted against the new contract. Thomas said he had no problems with Rowe's job performance but called the salary increase "out of line" since other county employees have not received raises in several years.
In other business, the board voted to pursue a final damage claim against BP for lost revenue due to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The TDC's portion is a component of the county's overall claim against the company.
Rowe told board members that Bay County's distance from the spill site and the length of time since the incident leaves the county with a "manageable risk" and that the beach should move toward finally putting the spill behind it.
Attorney Doug Sale said financial modeling is underway to project the final dollar amount of the claim. Rowe said the TDC will seek a "premium" from BP in order to offset any future spill-related event. If oil shows up in the water or on local beaches after the final settlement, BP would be required to mitigate the environmental damage but would have no liability for lost tourist revenue, Rowe said.
The TDC/CVB board voted to recommend to the Bay County Commission that it proceed with a final claim.