She will depart the third week of August after serving as TDC director since June 2012.

 

 

There were other opportunities over the past five years, but Jennifer Adams decided she was not done yet in Gulf County.

With a great offer on the table this month, the time had come.

Adams last week submitted her resignation as executive director of the Gulf County Tourist Development Council in order to assume the same role in Okaloosa County.

She will depart the third week of August after serving as TDC director since June 2012.

“It is a wonderful opportunity,” Adams said the Okaloosa County position, in a bigger county with a larger payroll and salary. “I don’t think I would have had this opportunity if I had not come to Gulf County.

“I have had a tremendous opportunity here in Gulf County. I can’t say anything but positives. It was just time.”

The opportunity in Okaloosa County came knocking on her door, Adams said.

She was contacted, as she had been other times in the past few years, by a search firm. She made county officials aware she was interviewing.

But the deeper into the process she traveled, the more the job appealed and she ended up as the top candidate; she was officially hired by the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners last Tuesday.

“I was not seeking to leave Gulf County in any way,” Adams said. “Gulf County is my home and I love it.

“The opportunity is good for me because the challenges there are within my skill set; branding, strategy, marketing.”

And there are parallels with her arrival in Gulf County in that she takes over an agency which has been scuffling a bit in recent years.

She was a late interview and hire five years ago to take over a Gulf County TDC which had been rocked by controversy over spending and was largely dismantled and rebuilt by the BOCC prior to Adams’ arrival.

The past five years have been a rocket ship as tourism numbers, including bed tax revenue, have been on a progressive upward arc for the past five years.

After a flat May, June of this year saw bed tax revenue grow by 15 percent, pushing year-to-date near 5 percent.

That after several years of double-digit growth, percentage-wise.

Actually, “double-digit” doesn’t come close to capturing the TDC’s growth the past five years under Adams’ leadership.

During June 2012, Adams’ first month on the job, the TDC brought in $222,875 in bed tax revenue.

In June 2017, bed tax revenue was nearly $388,000, an increase of 74 percent.

For the month of August, bed tax receipts grew 135 percent between 2012 and 2016.

The TDC, for the first time, eclipsed $1 million in bed-tax revenue several years ago and pushed past $1.3 million during the prior fiscal year.

“I have had a fantastic opportunity here,” Adams said. “This has been the most rewarding experience of my career, because of commissioners and county administrators, they have allowed us to do great things.

“There is a lot of great stuff going on in the county.”

One of the most significant strategies Adams and her team deployed was the emphasis on the so-called “prime” season, what is known as “shoulder-season” in other counties.

From her first full year onward, Adams focused on growing the months of September through March, motivated to transform Gulf County into a year-round destination.

She pushed a strategy of eco-tourism and adventure traveling, contending the county’s natural resources provided a playground for varied interests, not just fishing and beach vacations.

A new brand, Live Unpacked, was rolled out emphasizing that everyday life hits pause when visiting Gulf County.

The results were tangible, more than 30 percent growth across the months comprising what Adams called “prime.”

Between January 2012 and January 2017 bed-tax revenue for the month grew 82 percent.

“I did more than I thought I would have done,” Adams said. “I could have left before but I wasn’t done.”

She leaves behind, she said, a great team with plenty on the table.

Beach restoration is due to occur before the calendar year is out and the rollout the brand continues, as does a project to renovate and expand Port St. Joe’s 10th Street ball fields.

“We’ve got some big things going,” Adams said. “I am going to do all I can for a smooth transition.”