The current vice president of Marketing and Communications for the Williamson County Convention & Visitors Bureau has been named as the organization’s interim president and CEO.
This comes after the announced departure of Ellie Westman Chin, who has held the position since 2014.
Lauren Ward, who has been with Visit Franklin for close to four years, will begin her new duties Jan. 30, the day after Westman Chin leaves for her new job as president and CEO for the convention and visitors bureau in Madison, Wis.
Ward has been with Visit Franklin since May 2017, where she has overseen the bureau’s marketing and communications efforts, as well as the Visitor Center and its employees. Additionally, Ward has worked closely with the president and CEO on goal and vision setting for the bureau as a whole, as well as directly with hospitality industry partners across the county to promote the area to potential visitors.
“Although it’s a bittersweet time for the bureau with the departure of Ellie, I am thrilled and honored to assume the position of interim president and CEO,” Ward said. “I’m incredibly proud of the team we’ve assembled at Visit Franklin and the passion they have for their work, in partnership with our hospitality partners, to bring visitors to the area and support our local businesses.
“I look forward to working more closely with the board over these next few months and supporting the staff as we transition.”
Prior to her work with Visit Franklin, Ward served as an account supervisor at McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations for almost a decade, conceptualizing and implementing PR, marketing and advertising campaigns for a variety of clients including Amazon, Skanska, Athens State University, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Job Corps program.
Ward was also responsible for business development and managed the intern program at the agency. She received a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from the University of Tennessee.
The Williamson County Convention & Visitors Bureau’s board of directors is forming a search committee that will direct a nationwide search for a permanent president & CEO. The committee will include the board’s personnel committee, chaired by Williamson County Commissioner Steve Smith, with hopes to have a successful candidate finalized in the coming months.
“We believe that we have a very attractive opportunity here in Williamson County for the next president & CEO,” Smith said. “While we’re obviously disappointed to lose Ellie, and wish her the best in her new position, we anticipate having a lot of interest because of the hard work she and her team have done the last six years to put Visit Franklin in the strong position it is in today.
"We have great confidence in finding a highly qualified individual to lead Visit Franklin moving forward.”
Westman Chin’s last day with Visit Franklin is Jan. 29, and she, along with her husband, Ken, will transition to Madison shortly thereafter where she’ll begin her new role as president and CEO of Destination Madison.