Leisha Elliott’s job is all about hometown pride.

As the executive director of the Convention & Visitors Bureau of Marion County, it’s something she exudes.

“I’ve met and worked with some very talented people who are also passionate about promoting Marion County and the state of West Virginia,” she said. “Every day, I get to promote the best of my hometown.  By working at the visitor center, I have also had the opportunity to meet people I would have otherwise not crossed paths with. For example, I gentleman stopped in to get directions to a cemetery in Farmington. After I gave him directions, I asked who he was looking for. Turns out he is a cousin of my mom’s. I have also had the opportunity because of this job to travel around the state as well as other states in the southeast.”

In April 2011, Elliott was hired as group sales director and was made executive director when Marianne Moran retired in 2013.

She has a long list of duties, which include acting as the primary spokesperson for the bureau, leading it toward its mission and working directly with the board on policy-making and strategy.

In addition, she oversees all administrative, operating and marketing functions of the bureau; develops and supervises the implementation of an annual operating and marketing plan; and directs the preparation of the annual budget that supports the bureau and presents it to the board for approval.

Also, she establishes and maintains ongoing communications with board members, government leaders, tourism partners, businesses and cultural institutions; represents the bureau at selected local, state, regional and national conventions; develops and maintains effective organizational policies; ensures all bureau activities are implemented within these established policies, guidelines, laws and ethical standards; and prepares and submits applications for external funding.

Leah Nestor, an engagement specialist for the bureau, said Elliott is passionate about the county and small businesses.

She said Elliott wants the county to succeed as a tourism destination and also wants small businesses to excel.

Nestor described Elliott as “very creative” and detail-oriented.

In addition, she said Elliott is “very extroverted.”

People were able to see that side of Elliott’s personality when she competed last year in “Marion County Dancing with the Stars” to raise money for the United Way of Marion County.

She and Nathan McVicker took the stage as a dance team with a “Super Marion Brothers” theme, dressing in costume to complete the look of the video game.

“We had a blast doing it,” McVicker said at the time.

Looking back, Elliott said she was very reluctant to do “Dancing With The Stars.”

“When I shared my apprehension with a friend, she said, ‘don’t you like to dance,’” she recalled. “I said, ‘there is a big difference between dancing at a wedding reception and dancing in front of 600 people!”

“But it was a great experience!” she said, noting she had a lot of fun working with McVicker and others who were involved.

“I think people were a little shocked when we took the stage. We also had fun posting teasers on social media.”

“It was a great opportunity to give back to the community and I made some new friends in the process.”

Elliott, meanwhile, is proud of the success the bureau has experienced.

“I think it is a great success when you get to work with other organizations who are passionate about the state,” she said. “Additionally, we have been recognized with several advertising awards for our ‘Middle of Everywhere’ brand launch and our website. Feast of the Seven Fishes Festival and Celebration of Lights, which we nominated,  have been named as a Top 20 Event in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society.”

And, she said, “we have one of the nicest visitor centers in the state.”

Still, her job is not without its challenges.

“It is always a challenge to get local people to appreciate what we have,” she said. “Often we take for granted what’s in our own backyard, or state for that matter. And it can be hard to reach people to let them know what is going on in a way that is meaningful to them - whether it be ads, social media, newspaper etc.”

As for the future, she wants to continue her hard work.

“Our goal is to keep doing what we are doing,” she said. She said this includes continuing to become educated on best practices concerning social media and “to get out and experience for ourselves what we encourage other people to do in the region.”

Besides dancing, Elliott’s outside interests include spending time with her family, cooking and reading.

She said she has also become a podcast junkie.

Eric Hrin can be reached at 304-367-2549, or ehrin@timeswv.com.

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