By ROBERT PIERCE • Daily Leader
Seward County commissioners and fair board members continued Monday to discuss the job qualifications of a potential promoter for the Five State Fair.
Members of both boards met prior to the commission’s regular meeting to hash out some points in the description, and fair board member Evan Winchester said two areas must be looked at when trying to hire someone.
“We’ve gotta get the right person, and we’ve gotta pay them enough that they’re motivated to do a good job,” he said. “Part of that, I think, is incentives. We need a decent base pay, but I still believe we need to come back and look at ad sales and promotions and letting them have a percentage of those.”
Commissioner Jim Rice said the first year of using a promoter will be the most difficult.
“I don’t really think this’ll take full-time,” he said. “It’ll take more time to get it organized the first year, but it shouldn’t once it’s all put together.”
Winchester said a promoter would likewise be responsible for a lot of day-to-day clerical issues.
Rice said he believes having someone to coordinate the events of a fair is a necessity.
“There’s 10,000 things a guy could do out there, but you just gotta have somebody to coordinate it every day,” he said.
In previous meetings between the boards, some have suggested getting rid of the fair. Commissioner C.J. Wettstein said the format of how the event is planned is changing, and this is a shift he believes should not be made.
“I don’t think anyone’s saying we’d be better off without a county fair, but all these years, it’s been mainly volunteer up till now,”
he said. “Now, we’re asking all of a sudden to go away from the volunteer fair-type deal and needing someone anywhere from $35,000 to $50,000 we need to kick in just for someone to run the fair.”
Winchester disagreed saying the fair board had at one time employed paid staff.
“Then, the association started up five or six years ago,” he said.
“Some areas of the fair’s probably been better, but some has set there and kind of stagnated or maybe even got worse. In my opinion, we’ve tried this route, and maybe it’s time to go back and look at paid staff.”
Activity Center Director Janet Lewis said a volunteer fair board would still be utilized even after a promoter is hired.
“They’re the ones that make the decisions on having a concert and who to look to,” she said of the fair board. “You have a fair secretary/ promoter. You pay them, and maybe it comes a little bit from the fair board.”
Lewis suggested doing as many counties do and letting the local extension office kick in money to help pay a promoter’s salary.
“Maybe they can work all year round and maybe pay them $20,000 and commissions on ad sales,” she said. “They do work, basically, all year around, in those winter months when it’s slow, a couple hours.
You’ve got somebody who does your minutes at your fair board meetings. You’ve got somebody who’s got your agenda done.”
Lewis said a promoter would likewise be able to organize events, sell ads and have them ready when fair officials were ready to make their big push in the spring.
Wettstein suggested letting Lewis and AC assistant Anabel Clinesmith handle the work of promoting the fair.
“That would help justify their salary some more,” he said. “I think we’re trying to hire someone who if you get someone who likes doing the secretarial work, they’re not gonna be worth a darn selling ads.”
Wettstein said the attitudes of salespeople and secretaries are completely different.
“If you get someone who can do book work, you’re not gonna have someone who can sell, and if you’re gonna have someone who can sell, you’re not gonna have someone who can do book work,” he said.
Wettstein later suggested trying to use Lewis and Clinesmith for a year.
“That would put more justification on their salaries,” he said. “I think we can still utilize and get the fair done.”
Wettstein said the county cannot afford to hire additional help.
“Our budget restraints won’t let us do it,” he said. “I want a fair as bad as everybody else, and I think we need the fair. I don’t think anyone’s interested in shutting it down, but we just can’t keep throwing money.”
Wettstein said many counties can afford to hire a promoter, but money is not currently available in Seward’s budget.
“If you’ve got unlimited tax dollars, you don’t have to worry about it, but I don’t think Seward County has unlimited tax dollars,” he said. “I sure don’t think in 2010 or 2011 that we’re going to have more unlimited tax dollars.”
In its regular meeting, the commission voted unanimously to continue the county fair. It also voted 4-1, with chairman Joyce Hibler voting against, to continue the same fair association structure that is presently in place, which Rice said indicates to the association that the commission supports it in its continued efforts.
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