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City fields 14 ‘representatives’ to Vegas for shopping center convention

Clarksvegas. Clarksville to Vegas. Fourteen people traveling on the city’s dime. Make that dollars. Just how many people does it take to represent Clarksville as Tennessee’s Top Spot? And whose money is it anyway? Oh yes, taxpayer money.

A 14-member city delegation headed by Mayor Johny Piper is heading to Las Vegas May 18-21 to represent the city at RECon, a real estate trade fair (read “convention”) sponsored by the International Council of Shopping Centers that attracts an estimated 50,000 visitors each year. According to the RECon website, the convention “has been renamed and branded as ReCon, emphasizing the R-E-tail, R-eal E-state, Con-gress, Con-vention, Con-ference, aspects of the program.”

The last convention attended by Clarksville officials was in Atlanta, Georgia, which saw the Clarksville delegation ill-prepared (or rather, not prepared at all) to professionally market itself. Things have changed, have run the gamut from no kill to overkill.

The city may now have a professional display at the ready and be more prepared to join and compete with 74 cities among the 1800 exhibitors on the roster. But is it really necessary to fund 14 people to staff one little convention? Seems like overkill, and a bit of duplication. For the record, I am not against trade shows and expos. I’ve done them myself, as a presenter and as a journalist, but I’ve never come close to needing 13 people for back-up.

Joining Mayor Piper for this excursion will be the city’s Chief of Staff, Jum Durrett, City Councilors Deanna Maclaughlin [Ward 2], Geno Grubbs [Ward 7] and Wayne Harrison [Ward 12], Communications Director Missy Graham, Public Information/Marketing Coordinator Tonya Steele, Gas and Water Department Communication Analyst Rhonda Fulton, Information Systems Director Scott Oglesby, Regional Planning Commission Director David Riggins, RCP planner Jason Blalock, Economic Development Council President James Chavez, City Webmaster Tamara Streng, and Chamber of Commerce Vice-President Melinda Shepherd.

Is it really necessary to send three city councilors to Vegas? It also seems that having both the information/marketing director and the communications director in attendance is redundant. One member of the planning commission, okay, and a rep from the EDC is logical. But do we need to fund this trip for the city’s webmaster or the gas and water rep? Can’t the Chamber of Commerce fund its own representative instead of taking this out of the city coffers?

When cash is tight, the economy is tanking, and there are so many other issues before the city, it seems that a delegation half that size or smaller should be competent enough to represent Clarksville; if a half-dozen carefully chosen representatives can’t talk about and market the city competently for four days, maybe they need to find other jobs.

Consider the costs for this junket:

  • $6,000 in airfare
  • $10,000 for lodging (where are they staying?)
  • $3, 484 for meals [$64 per diem in food allowances for 14 people]
  • $2,250 in individual registration fees
  • $600 for the booth
  • $664 estimated for “miscellaneous expenses” (surcharges for things like power and even vacuuming the booth area)

There will be ancillary expenses like transportation from the airport to that $10,000 worth of lodging (where are they staying anyway? — for ten grand it must be pretty nice) and last time I was there shuttle fees were at least $12 per person each way (probably higher now, given gas prices), unless they get a limo…which may cost even more. Add the potential cost of taxis to and from the convention center.

It makes much more sense to establish a “team” versed in the vital aspects and field that team with underwriting by the private developers who will ultimately be the beneficiaries of new retail development, which is what this “shopping center” convention is all about.



  1. If this convention show isn’t until mid-May, where is the mayor jetting off to today? He’s suppose be representing the city at another retail showcase today, according to info released at the “Brand” unveiling at F&M Bank. In either case, it will certainly prove a good test of how well our new “Brand” is received by the rest of the world.

    This does appear to be a rather large delegation. I agree that those elements of other governmental functions that have separate funding should use that source to pay for their own participation in this venture. Perhaps the facts are that the trip was initiated by the city and thus expenses become the city’s burden. Hmm-m-m!

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