The new executive director of the Elgin Area Convention and Visitors Bureau said she's excited about the opportunity to properly market Elgin with an increase in state funding.
Krisilee Murphy, formerly director of marketing and a nine-year veteran of the agency, was promoted in July after longtime Executive Director Kim Bless was laid off.
Bless, whose annual salary was $131,200 including a vehicle stipend, lost her job effective June 30 after the Elgin City Council earlier this year approved a $196,700 one-year contract that capped -- just like a state grant does -- how much the bureau can spend on salaries.
Murphy, who lives in Maple Park, said her annual salary is $79,000 and she has no car stipend.
This year's annual budget for the bureau is $478,000, a $44,000 increase from last year, thanks to record-breaking tourism numbers across the state, Murphy said. The state is contributing nearly $250,000 and the bureau's advertising budget is doubling to $150,000, she said.
"I really do feel like us moving forward with more advertising money ... now we are able to be the voice of the community," she said. "Now we can take that 'Explore Elgin' brand that we created and put something behind it."
Murphy declined to comment on Bless' departure. As for becoming executive director, "I did not think this is how it was going to happen, but I am grateful to be able to stay in the city. I love Elgin."
Board Chairman Hratch Basmadjian said the panel voted unanimously to promote Murphy. The board briefly considered soliciting applications but decided it didn't make sense given the salary constraints, he said.
"Krisilee is very qualified," Basmadjian said. "Basically we're super happy with what we have right now."
Basmadjian said he became chairman in late June, after former Chairwoman Marilou Pilman resigned after the announcement that Bless would be leaving.
In addition to Murphy, the bureau has one other employee, sales manager Wendi Howard. She's worked there since the fall and has had success in booking additional sports events in Elgin. A part-time employee left recently for a full-time job, and the board approved hiring a replacement, Murphy said.
The bureau is working with the city on new street banners and holding a meeting for stakeholders such as marketing representatives of local colleges, Murphy said.
The agency also will be getting a new website that will make it easier to find local events, Murphy said. She's trying to get Expedia to offer hotel bookings directly on the bureau website, she added, and the bureau is developing a "roaming" expo for wedding and event planners featuring eight venues in Elgin, Murphy said.
The bureau recently landed the fall conference of the Illinois Council of Convention & Visitors Bureaus, which will bring about 80 people to Elgin over the course of two days, she said. That translates into about $20,000 of economic impact, she said.
"Right after everything that happened," Murphy said, "we needed something that was like, 'This is ours.'"
Basmadjian said Elgin had its best tourism year -- as measured by hotel occupancy rate -- in at least a decade and city officials are committed to working with the bureau to market the city.