Barry E. White — not to be confused with the late, baritone-voiced soul singer of 1970s fame — has been chosen as the new president and CEO of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).
White will come here in February from the CVB in Augusta, Ga., where he's worked for 26 years. He started as director of sales in 1991 and then was promoted in 1994 to president and CEO, a job he's held for 23 years.
"Very excited. Looking forward to it," said White, who's from Kingsport, Tenn., and has a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
"Tennessee is home. Love the state. Always have, always will," he said.
White will take the reins from Bob Doak, who's retiring after 15 years at the helm of the Chattanooga CVB.
The CVB came under fire in Doak's final year, as questions were raised about CVB employees' spending on meals and travel expenses. A state audit faulted the CVB for such things as not keeping detailed receipts for 36 percent of $378,298 in credit card charges for a one-year period. The Chattanooga CVB gets about 87 percent of its funding from county hotel-motel occupancy tax.
Transparency will be a priority, White said.
One of his first steps after he took charge of the Augusta CVB was to change it in 1996 from a quasi- public organization to a private nonprofit corporation. That's the recommended structure for CVBs in Georgia, he said.
As part of that restructuring, White put public officials on the Augusta CVB board.
"We made two seats on our board, two seats out of 12, for elected officials," he said. "I'm completely open to that [in Chattanooga] and would strongly encourage it."relatedarticlethumb
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White supported a public- private partnership about five years ago to expand the convention center in downtown Augusta. The project added publicly- funded meeting space near a privately-owned hotel, The Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center.
"It has been tremendously successful," he said.
Hotel growth has boomed in Augusta, he said, with 22 hotels built in the past 10 years. Four new hotels are in the works in Augusta's urban core, he said, including one across from the newly expanded convention center.
Chattanooga CVB board chairman Keith Sanford said White has the reputation of a consensus- builder.
"The executive committee that met him, we're all really excited," said Sanford, who's president and CEO of the Tennessee Aquarium downtown. "I like his experience with CVB — and particularly in another Southeastern U.S. city."
Sanford declined to say what White will be paid.
"We haven't finished negotiating everything," he said.
Doak made a total of $229,938 in 2015, according to the most current IRS Form 990 the Chattanooga CVB is required to file as a nonprofit organization. The 2015 breakdown for Doak was $161,580 in pay, $46,035 in bonuses and incentives, $8,408 in other compensation and $13,915 in retirement pay.
White made $184,641 that year. He got base pay of $167,856 plus $16,785 in retirement compensation, according to the 2015 Form 990 filed by the Augusta CVB.
Augusta is known internationally for The Masters golf tournament held every April at Augusta National Golf Club.
While the recognition is a blessing, White said, the curse of The Masters is [people ask], 'Is that the only thing you have to do in Augusta?"
While White's not a soul singer, he did get to know the late "Godfather of Soul," James Brown, who was probably Augusta's best-known resident.
"If someone hasn't heard of golf or The Masters, most of them have heard of James Brown," he said.
"I had the chance to meet with and work with him," White said. "He was a proud Augustan."
Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or on Twitter @meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.
This story was updated Dec. 21, 2017, at 10 p.m. with more information.