Board Shakeup

Madison, Ind., tourism boards
move forward in wake of resignations

Members served on Board of Tourism
and VisitMadison Inc. board

(September 2020) – Tourism is an important part of Madison, Ind.’s economy. Dedicated volunteers lead and work on boards that support the planning and management of special events. These events draw tourists to enjoy the scenic Ohio River and riverfront, the food, the shopping, the music and the hospitality of Madison. Volunteers are not passive participants. They are passionate professionals from business and government who work hard on their own time to plan, organize, fundraise, and help staff these events.
Sometimes the weight of those responsibilities can result in conflict around how to best accomplish the goals or spend limited resources. In August, seven members suddenly resigned from the Jefferson County Board of Tourism and also from the VisitMadison Inc., tourism board, including the presidents of both boards.

Tawana Thomas


Cara Fox, former board chair of VisitMadison Inc. and owner of The Little Golden Fox store on Main Street, explained that the past few months have been exhausting, both personally and professionally. The challenges of COVID-19 on top of changes in the energy of the board plus personal responsibilities impacted her decision to resign. She said that she was not involved with the resignation decisions of other members. In spite of her resignation from the VMI board, Fox said, “I’m still a big cheerleader of VisitMadison. I still volunteer on their committees. We’ve got good things going on in Madison.”
Newly elected VMI board chair Lucy Dattilo said, “I’m so thankful for the civic-minded people who are not self-serving, who served before. Their resignations are a real loss. However, there are other people out there who would also like to serve.”
Board members are appointed to represent various entities, such as the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce, City Council, City of Madison Special Projects, as well as members at large, appointed from the community. Dattilo was appointed to the VMI board in 2020 as the representative from City Council. She brings extensive experience, including previous work on the County Council, the VMI board and others. Speaking of her new role on the board, she said, “We had enough people left on the board for a quorum, so we were able to establish our new leadership roles: Joe Craig, Vice-Chair and Hannah Fagan, Secretary-Treasurer,” Other board members include Kara Hinze and Jeff Frazier. Cari Morrison Bear is a new Board member representing the Chamber of Commerce. 
“If life gives you a big lemon, you’d better make a lot of lemonade,” said Dattilo, 52. Her approach is to stick with the mission because it is even more important now. “We work for the people of Jefferson County. Our role is to bring people to Madison – put heads in beds,” she added.

Lucy Dattilo


The people in the business community rely on Madison tourism, especially the revenue from fall events, such as the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art (recently canceled) to get through the fall and winter. Dattilo previously operated a retail business on Main Street for 14 years. She understands first-hand how tourism supports local merchants.
“The mayor wants to be able to have safe events that attract local and regional people,” she said. “We have to figure out how to do it. I like helping fix things, to be part of the process to make things better. We need to be creative to respond to all of these challenges. This is unventured territory. I don’t know how we will get there, but we have to.”
The board also is responsible for working with the VisitMadison Inc. Executive Director, Tawana Thomas and her staff to manage day-to-day operations of the organization. Speaking of working with Thomas, Dattilo added, “We can do this, we’re in this together.”
The professional team at VisitMadison includes tourism specialists who market events, create advertising and constantly promote the beauty of the riverfront, unique shops, live music venues and Clifty Falls State Park.

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