By Randy Arrington
LURAY, April 5 — One week ago, Liz Lewis submitted her resignation as Page County’s Economic Development and Tourism Coordinator after almost three and-a-half years on the job.
Lewis was hired by the county on Nov. 13, 2017. She was particularly successful in bringing in grant funding during the COVID-19 pandemic that allowed for the creation of a Food Hub to help laid off restaurant and hospitality workers, the production of masks utilizing local labor, and the payment of internet fees for county residents unable to afford those services. The projects were highlighted on PageCountyLiving.com, which Lewis created.
“She did some amazing things,” County Administrator Amity Moler said on Monday. “She brought in so much grant funding in the last year. I’m very proud of her for that.”
Efforts to reach Lewis for confirmation or comment were unsuccessful.
On Monday, Moler confirmed Lewis’ resignation, which came just three weeks after the March 8 hiring of Nina Long Fox. Although she was originally hired under the title of Business Retention and Development Director, Long officially became the Director and Economic Development and Tourism effective today.
“Nina is going to be focusing a lot more on business expansion and retention, working with existing businesses and getting new business to come here,” Moler said. “Liz’s role was mainly marketing and tourism.”
More than one member of the Page County Board of Supervisors in recent years has voiced at public meetings their desire to have more of a focus on business in the economic development department, and less on tourism. The rationale they have given is that several other entities in the county currently focus on tourism, such as the Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce, the Luray Downtown Initiative and all three towns within Page County.
Fox’s position is being funded through Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) funds, which are mandated to be used for tourism-related promotion. TOT funds are collected from visitors to the county through taxes on lodging, meals and other tourist activities — and despite the pandemic, Moler said Page County’s wide array of cabins and outdoor offerings lead to 2020 being “one of the best years we’ve had” in terms of TOT dollars.
“I was really excited about the expansion of [that] department,” Moler said. “I thought the two of them would have made a phenomenal team. Nina is now handling all of it.”
Moler said Lewis’ March 29 resignation was sudden, noting that she was “submitting a grant application the day she left.” Now, Fox is left to handle both areas of the department, which gained her the title of “director” versus “coordinator” and a correlating higher salary.
The county administrator intends to formally introduce the county’s newest hire to the board of supervisors at Tuesday night’s work session.