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Haslam Retains Susan Whitaker as Tourist Development Commissioner

susan whitakerNASHVILLE -- Tennessee Governor-elect Bill Haslam has announced Susan Whitaker will continue as Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.

Haslam also announced the formation and leadership of a statewide Tourism Committee chaired by Colin Reed, CEO of Gaylord Entertainment, and co-chaired by Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. CEO Jack Soden and Dolly Parton Productions President Ted Miller.

The committee will set a date within the next 12 months to report to Haslam and Whitaker on how to maximize Tennessee's potential in tourism by attracting more visitors, creating more effective marketing, coordinating public-private partnerships, handing off customers from attraction to attraction more efficiently and specifically focusing on tourism opportunities in smaller, economically depressed counties.

Tourism in Tennessee generates $13.3 billion in economic impact and employs more than 170,000 Tennesseans. Whitaker was first appointed commissioner in January 2003 and has served in that capacity for the past eight years, overseeing the creation and implementation of state tourism's many campaigns.

"Tennessee tourism has taken many positive strides during Susan's tenure as commissioner, and I am delighted to have her stay on as head of the department," Haslam said. "I'm also gratified that Colin Reed, Jack Soden and Ted Miller – three giants of the nationwide tourism industry – have agreed to lend their expertise to taking Tennessee tourism to a new level."

Whitaker is a Chicago native and a direct descendant of Tennessee's first governor, John Sevier. She has a bachelor's degree in communications from Northwestern University, and before serving as commissioner, she was Vice President of Marketing for Dollywood.

"I've been excited to hear Gov.-elect Haslam's ideas on regional economic development and tourism, and I'm thrilled to be a part of his team," Whitaker said. "I'm especially proud to be representing Tennessee in tourism, and I'm looking forward to working with the committee as we seek creative and innovative ways to maximize Tennessee's tourism potential."

Whitaker is married to Ken Whitaker, and they attend Christ Community Church in Franklin. She has two sons, Josh and Jeff, and four grandchildren.

Published January 12, 2011

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