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Martinsburg-Berkeley County Visitors Bureau director submitted resignation months ago

December 11, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The resignation of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention & Visitors Bureau’s executive director apparently was in the works for several months.

After more than six years on the job, Andrea Ball announced Thursday that she had resigned effective that day.

When contacted about her resignation, Ball said Thursday that she submitted a letter of resignation to the bureau’s board president April 25 that made her departure effective Sept. 21.

“I am offering five months notice to give you an opportunity to find a replacement and to complete what I hope is a very successful Pickin’ In the Panhandle 2012,” Ball wrote in a letter to Kim Reid that she released Thursday to The Herald-Mail.

Upon submitting the letter, Ball said she agreed to stay on a while longer, but made a final decision to resign Wednesday.

Reid, who was not reappointed to the tourism board this summer, could not be reached for comment Friday.

William “Bill” Lucht, who has been serving as president of the bureau’s board of directors since Reid’s departure, said Friday he was unaware of Ball’s resignation letter, and at least one other board member also indicated as much Friday.

Lucht, in a statement released Friday, said he was appreciative of Ball’s many contributions to tourism in Berkeley County, including the creation of Pickin’ in the Panhandle, the state-sanctioned barbecue and bluegrass festival that has been held for six years in Back Creek Valley.

“Our board will be recruiting an experienced professional who can continue to advance the tourism efforts of the county,” Lucht said.

Ball, who was being paid $55,000 with partially paid health benefits, said Thursday that she plans to expand her Washington, D.C.-based consulting business, PlanIt World LLC, which focuses on management and communications projects for nonprofits and events.

Jennifer Jensen, who serves as the communications manager at the bureau, is listed as PlanIt World’s communications manager as well, according to the K Street firm’s website.

The client list for Ball’s company includes several organizations that list the same mailing address as PlanIt World, and Ball herself is listed as the executive director of at least three of the organizations, according to their respective websites.

One of PlanIt’s clients, Make Welcome Entertainment, says on its website that it conceptualized and produced Pickin’ in the Panhandle. However, Ball said Monday her company did not conceptualize and produce Pickin’ in the Panhandle through the CVB as the website had indicated.

Before this year’s festival in September, Ball acknowledged that Pickin’ in the Panhandle had lost more than $100,000 in the last two years, but insisted the event’s economic impact on the community was much greater. Ball said the impact in 2011 was about $6.3 million.

This year, more than 70 barbecuers competed for a state title in the festival’s Kansas City BBQ Society-sanctioned competition and about 8,000 people attended the three-day event, officials have said.

In addition to launching what became the official state barbecue and bluegrass festival, Ball also noted that the West Virginia Book Faire in Martinsburg, created during her tenure, was another tourism revenue generator for the area. The native of Rock, Kan., said she also netted more than $500,000 in grants and the Preserve America designation for the city of Martinsburg.

While Ball was serving as executive director, the bureau received the Community Tourism Development Award in 2009 and the Spirit of West Virginia Award in 2008 from the state Division of Tourism at the annual West Virginia Stars of the Industry awards program.

“Since 2006, I have enjoyed being part of the CVB and want to express my gratitude for a rewarding career for the past 6 years and your support as a board member,” Ball wrote in her letter to Reid.

“This decision was not an easy one and involved many hours of thoughtful consideration,” Ball said in the letter.

“I am confident, however, that this choice represents a positive move for me,” she wrote.

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Editor's note: This story was edited Dec. 11, 2012, to correct a source's error about Make Welcome Entertainment's connection with Pickin' in the Panhandle.

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