Tourism Director Hired

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The new director of tourism for Lauderdale County is Wanda Grabert,
a former Meridian resident and Lauderdale County Miss Hospitality,
who now lives in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Grabert's background is in banking, real estate and public relations.
She has been active in Gulf Shores civic affairs.

But when county administrator Rex Hiatt asked for a vote to confirm
her appointment, District 5 Supervisor Ray Boswell was critical.

"Not once have I ever met this lady. I don't have any idea what she looks like, who she is or nothing," said Boswell. "Twenty minutes before nine, you asked me to vote to hire somebody to run the tourism bureau. I don't think that's right."

Hiatt attempted to explain the selection process. "The day to day administration is handled by the Tourism Commission, but you have the final say so over budgetary matters and, of course, this would be a budgetary issue," said Hiatt.

"But in the future I'd like for this board to be able to communicate with somebody, at least if they're going to be drawing money from the taxpayers of this county," Boswell said.

However, board president Craig Hitt had taken an active role in the selection.

"I was asked to represent the board for the interviews," said Hitt. "I not only met this person but I met all of the ones who were interviewed. I think it was six or seven different individuals. That's how I met her. But I certainly think she's a qualified candidate and will do a good job for tourism and for Lauderdale County."

Eventually Boswell voted for the appointment with the others. Grabert will be paid slightly more than $40,000 per year.