Although Monica Smith is leaving her job as president and CEO of the Macon-Bibb County Convention & Visitors Bureau, she will remain in the hospitality industry she’s worked in since she was a teenager.

Smith’s last day in Macon will be July 1, and she will return to Jacksonville, Florida, where her family moved when she was 7.

She will be the new vice president of sales and services for Visit Jacksonville, the destination marketing organization for Duval County.

“I’ve had a chance to do what I love in several cities across the country, but I’m excited to return home to share my expertise and sell my hometown,” Smith said in an email.

Smith began her job in Macon on July 1, 2010.

“The contributions that Monica have made have been very valuable,” said Susan Welsh, president of the CVB board and executive director of the Museum of Arts & Sciences. “Our convention and visitors bureau is respected across the state, across the Southeast region. She has been significant in growing our tourism market and helping to rebrand this region as a tourist destination. The financial management that she’s led for the convention and visitors bureau has also been fabulous. ... We’re sorry to see her go.

“This is just a natural transition. We are real thankful for all the work Monica has done.”

Smith said she is leaving the CVB in a good place with a good team.

“I’m most proud of eliminating the CVB debt, so that the organization has a sound financial future, and developing a team of professionals whose great work has been recognized on a regional and national basis,” she said. “I think I’ll miss my volunteer work with the Georgia Industrial Children’s Home and the Bibb County school district the most.”

One of the challenges the CVB has been addressing in Macon is “the negative perceptions that long-term residents have had of the community,” she said. “Throughout my career, I’ve learned that people often take home for granted and may not appreciate the assets and charm of the community in the same way that a visitor does.”

The CVB has worked at turning around those perceptions, she said.

“We, along with several other organizations, have promoted the positive things going on in Macon and also educated the community on the history and attractions that are unique to Macon-Bibb County,” Smith said.

The CVB board is reviewing three executive search firms that specialize in the destination marketing industry, Welsh said. The board plans to select a search firm by July 1. Working with the firm, the CVB will put together a search committee to launch a national search.

Until the search is complete, Robin North, currently vice president of sales and services for the CVB, will be the interim president/CEO, Welsh said. North and Smith will work together until Smith leaves to make the transition a smooth one.

“We’ve developed an amazing strategic plan with ambitious goals, and (Smith) has really prepared the staff well to move forward with strategic planning,” Welsh said. “I feel great about our transition plan and the year ahead.”

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