Note: This story was updated at 5:55 p.m.
A former Oak Ridge rowing director could become the next executive director of the Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The ORCVB board of directors on Thursday voted 4-3 to offer the job to Marc A. DeRose, subject to reference checks. If hired, DeRose will replace former longtime director Katy Brown, who became ORCVB president in 2006 and left in July to take a new marketing and promotions job covering Knoxville and Chattanooga.
DeRose was hired by the Oak Ridge Rowing Association in August 2013, and he resigned from his head coach and rowing director position in May of this year, saying the job was “not the right fit for me and my family,” the ORRA said in a press release this spring.
Other candidates for the ORCVB job, which offers a starting salary of $45,000 per year, were Lila Wilson, director of special events for the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend, and Naomi Asher, executive director of CASA of the Tennessee Heartland. ORCVB board members said Asher withdrew her application, saying she wanted to continue working for CASA.
Wilson received three votes on Thursday, picking up one less than DeRose’s four.
Voting for DeRose were ORCVB Board Chair Aaron Wells and board members Jim Dodson, Gretchen Julius, and Troy Patel.
Voting for Wilson were board members Mary Ann Damos, Mark Harvey, and Carol Smallridge.
Wilson has previously worked as director of tourism for the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce and was director of special events for the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism for more than a decade, from March 1999 to July 2010.
DeRose has also held other rowing and coaching jobs. Before he started at the ORRA last year, he had been assistant coach of women’s rowing at the University of Central Florida.
Citing his strategic planning, board members said DeRose is a “better visionary,” while they said Wilson has more experience in a wide range of areas, with helpful certifications and credentials.
“I don’t think you can lose with either one of them,” Dodson said.
Supporting DeRose, Wells said a boost in rowing activities could be a “win-win” for everybody, and he questioned the city’s ability to take on 10 new events, much less the many others that Wilson showed.
“We’ve got to make it work with what we have going for us,” Wells said, citing regattas, U.S. Department of Energy activities and visits, and the all-terrain vehicles that use Windrock Mountain north of Oliver Springs.
But those who supported Wilson questioned DeRose’s experience, compared to Wilson’s, pointing out that he has worked in rowing his entire career.
“We can’t take a risk,” Harvey said.
“Lila seems to cover a wider range of involvements,” Smallridge said.
After the vote, though, Harvey said he was not disappointed.
“I don’t think you could have gone wrong either way,” he said.
The board expects to check DeRose’s references and possibly offer him the job on Monday before meeting with him at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday. The board hopes he can start at the three-person office as soon as possible.
The ORCVB received close to 150 applications for the executive director position from candidates across the country. Four people were interviewed last week, including current employee Debi Boody, who has been leading the bureau on an interim basis.
Funding for the ORCVB, which receives most of the city’s 5 percent hotel and motel tax, is down about $100,000 from roughly $400,000 a few years ago to closer to $300,000 today. There is a separate proposal to consider making the organization a municipal department, although it’s not clear if Oak Ridge City Council members will support that move.
More information will be added as it becomes available.