By Linda Cicoira- Kerry Allison, executive director of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission, who was criticized last month by the Accomack Board of Supervisors for her suggestion to “Outlaw Industrial Chicken Farming,” is retiring effective Jan. 1.
The decision was announced in a letter she emailed Tuesday to the Eastern Shore Post. It was signed by the commission’s chairman, Steven Potts, and addressed to Eastern Shore of Virginia tourism partners. It was sent to the newspaper via Allison’s email address.
“This impending vacancy and the development of a plan of action to fulfill this position” is scheduled to be discussed at the commission’s next meeting on Sept. 26, Potts wrote.
Allison’s suggestion regarding the poultry industry was among opinions received from a survey conducted by the Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission and posted on the wall at an economic summit the agency hosted in July. The meeting was attended by Gov. Ralph Northam and other state leaders.
Last month, Accomack supervisors said the poultry industry is vital to Accomack. The leaders were unhappy the commission did not act to reprimand Allison and discussed the possibility of giving funds to the local chambers of commerce instead of the tourism commission. About $86,500 was provided to the commission by Accomack County in the current budget.
Supervisor Grayson Chesser was the most incensed and continued to be so when reached for comment Tuesday. “She wants to stay and help get her replacement straight,” he said of Allison regarding her retirement. “I’ve still not heard an apology for what she wrote. I would have thought that would have been the place to start. But that is up to her. She doesn’t need to apologize to me, she needs to say she is sorry to all the citizens on the Eastern Shore who work in the poultry industry.”
Chairman Robert Crockett of the Accomack supervisors was also appalled. “Poultry is our anchor tenant,” he said at the session in August. “That would be devastating for us.” He feared the issue would be harmful. “Now back in Richmond, you know they are talking about this,” he said.
Crockett made the motion for county staff to explore a new approach of promoting tourism in Accomack by teaming up with local chambers “and to assist Chincoteague for the first time.”
Tuesday, Crockett declined to comment about Allison’s retirement. “But I will say, the county administrator will continue to explore options for promoting tourism on the Eastern Shore of Virginia,”
Potts wrote, “Under the guidance and expertise of Ms. Allison, the tourism industry on Virginia’s Eastern Shore has continued to grow and thrive, and was recognized as the fastest-growing tourism region during two of her four years in this position. Kerry leveraged her skill set to help launch our regional industry into the digital age through the development of rich content and a strong digital platform from which to market the many assets of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, including a new website scheduled to launch in October.”
“The annual tourism summits continue to unite our partners and provide opportunities for the exchange of ideas with and among our tourism entrepreneurs and to meet the needs of growing markets,” Potts wrote. “Kerry has strengthened the Tourism Commission’s staff, bringing in a higher level of efficiency to keep our region on top of the growing market trends. During her tenure, the southern gateway welcome center has welcomed close to 500,000 visitors to this region and its travel ambassadors have guided those visitors off Route 13 and into many communities and businesses throughout the Eastern Shore. Please join the commission as we wish Kerry all the best in her future endeavors.”