The Putnam Examiner

New Putnam Tourism Director Comes Home

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Bruce Conklin always knew he wanted to move into a bigger market when he was the director of a tourism department in the Midwest. But moving to a bigger market while also coming back to home to Putnam County is a feeling Conklin is still savoring.

Conklin takes over for Frank Smith, who was the acting director of the Visitor’s Bureau after former first lady of New York Libby Pataki resigned from her job following unending controversy over a second non-profit that mirrored the visitor’s bureau resulting in an investigation from the New York Attorney General’s Office.

Now after more than a year since Pataki left, the county has their new permanent replacement in place.

Conklin was born in Peekskill and grew up in Putnam Valley all through high school and part of college before he went off to school in Rhode Island. Most of his relatives are still in Putnam and the Lower Hudson Valley.

“I don’t really know how to explain it,” he said of coming home. “I’ve been trying to put it into words for people because they’re like ‘what’s it’s like coming home.’”

Conklin comes from the Midwest where he held the same title for a city in Missouri.

For three years, Conklin ran the City of Lebanon tourism department as a one-man show. The city has a population of roughly 15,000 residents.

In the first six months of that job, Conklin realized this was a job he would enjoy and want to make a career out of.

“I really enjoy helping promote an area,” he said. “And tourism is a great avenue of really showing off what your area has to offer. It’s fun and positive.”

Those that worked with him in the past have high regards for Conklin’s work.

In online post from Missouri Network, Lebanon Mayor Josh Ray commended Conklin’s tenure with the city after it was revealed he was leaving to take the tourism job in Putnam. Ray called Conklin a “fantastic asset” who would be “missed tremendously.”

“He is a prime example of what we can do as an organization when we promote from within.” Ray said in part. “He helped me navigate roadblocks and offered key guidance for how to improve our town and highlight the positive.”

While Conklin grew up in Putnam, he is still acclimating himself to a county that has more development than when he was a teen in the rural county. It’s been about a decade since he’s lived in Putnam, besides the occasional visit to see family.

Although a different landscape, Conklin called the change exciting, considering how much has been done in a short time.

“And all the different things that are being offered to people and now as tourism director I can offer it to our visitors,” he said. “They have all these new options they can pick from.”

Conklin said he’s in the midst of creating a comprehensive marketing plan with the matching funds the county gets from New York State. The in-depth travel guide will give visitors an idea of what they can do in the county, Conklin said, and then translate that guide with even more information on the county tourism’s website.

Additionally, Conklin wants to beef up the Visitor’s Bureau social media presence.

With spring coming up quickly, he knows the county is against the clock. He’ll also seek guidance from tourism colleagues in the Lower Hudson Valley about what has worked for them.

“My feet are still very, very wet,” Conklin admitted, but. “It won’t take me long to get caught up.”

Conklin said the biggest challenge the county faces in becoming a prime tourism attraction is the lack of hotels. While there are some bed and breakfast inns in the area, particularly in Cold Spring, that can’t attract “bus loads of people,” Conklin said.

As County Executive MaryEllen Odell said in her State of the County address, Putnam wants to go from a “day-cation to a stay-cation destination,” Conklin noted. And he hopes he’s part of making that come true.

“Your assets are your biggest commodities,” Conklin said. “And I plan on promoting every asset that I possibly can.”

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