Ed Schroeder resigned on Sept. 15 as the Pensacola Chamber’s head of tourism. He resigned after Chamber emails were leaked to the media that appeared to show a move by Schroeder, Tourist Development Commission chairman Denis McKinnon and a group of hotel owners to move the Convention & Visitors Bureau away from the chamber.
According to IN sources, there were also several emails not released to the media that showed Schroeder criticizing his boss, Chamber CEO Jim Hizer. After a daily newspaper article on Schroeder and the TDC was published on Sept. 8, Hizer placed Schroeder on administrative leave.
McKinnon, Ellis Bullock, of the TDC’s ad firm, and Dave Cleveland of Highpointe Hotels spoke Monday afternoon to the Executive Committee of the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce about the issues concerning the Escambia County Tourism Development Commission and the CVB.
Bullock and McKinnon made it clear that while they may could have communicated better, they are not attempting a “tourism coup” by pulling the CVB and tourism away from the Chamber. They had asked Collier Merrill on Aug. 9 to make a presentation on asking the Chamber to join the TDC in doing a study on how to best manage the CVB and tourism for the county.
Bullock pointed out that Escambia County is the largest county in the state that doesn’t have an independent CVB that answers to a county commission. He pointed out that Schroeder had a tough job because he answered to three bosses, the Chamber, the TDC and the Tourism Administrative Council. Bullock and McKinnon felt that Chamber CEO Hizer had been informed of the meeting held by the hotel owners.
Dave Cleveland told the Executive Committee that governance of the CVB was never high on the list of concerns of the hotel owners. “It was may be five, six or seven on the list,” said Cleveland.
“We need some very tough, frank conversations with the county that need to be had,” said Cleveland. He also brought up the issue of double taxation with the Pensacola Beach hotels having to pay lease fees based on percentage of revenues, plus ad valorem taxes on lease improvements and the land.
Cleveland also defended Schroeder. “The irony is Ed is one of the most loyal people I’ve ever met,” he said. “He could lose his job over loyalty.”
Cleveland insisted that the suspended Chamber VP had served as a resource to the hotel group, but had remained loyal to the Chamber. He was doing the research that the TDC and TAC chairmen had asked him to do.
After the Chamber’s board of directors meeting, the Executive Committee reconvened and told Hizer it was his decision to keep Schroeder or not. Schroeder resigned three days later.