Travel & Tourism

Supervisors switch out two tourism commissioners

Mary Cracchiolo Spain
Mary Cracchiolo Spain

The Harrison County Supervisors added to their agenda Monday and made two changes to the Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Mary Cracchiolo Spain, regional director of communications at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, was appointed by Supervisor Angel Kibler-Middleton. She replaces Pam Meinzinger, general manager of Gulfport Premium Outlets, who served for three years.

Dan Wittmann, owner of Wut SUP Standup Paddleboards & Pontoon Boat Rentals on Seaway Road in Gulfport, was selected by Supervisor Beverly Martin to fill the position held by Chett Harrison, general manager of Golden Nugget Casino Biloxi.

Their appointments to the board became effective May 1 and their first meeting will be Monday, a special meeting called for National Travel and Tourism Week and for an executive session for undisclosed reasons.

Among the first things they will vote on will be the contract renewal of Renee Areng, executive director of Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast, the three-county tourism-promotion agency.

Harrison’s term was set to expire in June and he said, “I had told them a couple months ago that I didn’t want to reappointed when it came up.”

Harrison said he never intended to serve beyond the Tourism Partnership, a group that pushed to get legislation approved for the commission, which was designed to promote tourism in the Coast counties.

He was working in Hancock County at the time and said he felt it was important to accept the appointment to the new tourism board being established. Accountant Jimmy Levens and George Schloegel, former Hancock Bank president and Gulfport mayor, were among those who served with him to set up the new bureau’s bylaws.

The Coast is doing well, Harrison said, and for the first time, South Mississippi has an accredited tourism bureau. “Absolutely some great things were done and I just hope it continues,” he said.

Martin said she chose Wittmann as a commissioner because he is on the front lines and dealing directly with tourists.

“We just want small business represented,” she said.

Wittmann, who has operated his paddleboard-rental business for six years, said he wants to promote ecotourism and some of the smaller museums in South Mississippi. “I’m hoping to bring a perspective from the smaller tourist attractions on the Coast,” he said.

Cracchiolo Spain has been involved in tourism for more than 20 years. She worked in the Harrison County tourism office as media relations manager and then director of communications. In the late 1990s, tourism was booming on the Coast and the predecessor to the Mississippi Development Authority hired her to run the state office of tourism for South Mississippi, which was in Gulfport. She has worked at the Beau Rivage since 2001 and serves as the Coast chair of the American Red Cross.