The county’s new tourism leader, Georgia Turner, aims to put Flagler on the map.
Family: She and her husband, Eddie, have been married almost 20 years; no kids
Occupation: Vice President of Tourist Development
Quirky fact: She’s a leap-year baby and so, technically, is only 13 years old. Every birthday, she throws a themed party for herself based on that age. At 11, she threw a Barbie bash.
Flagler County’s new vice president of tourist development, Georgia Turner, held her first public presentation Dec. 3, at the Palm Harbor Golf Club. And she was pumped.
“I’m so excited I can hardly hide it!” she said, starting with some personal stuff. She has three cats, she told the crowd, Goldie, Polly and Jack Black. She’s a big “South Park” fan and loves NASCAR. She’s played the ukulele since she was 4.
And, in replacing Peggy Heiser, she admitted to being a bit nervous. But her anxiety was hidden well, under jokes and a plucky Southern charm, which she used to loosen up the room of politicians and business leaders.
“I would put (our) beach up against any beach anywhere,” she said at one point. “Other people say they got it — ” then she jokingly scoffed and flicked her wrist as if to say, “But who are they kidding?”
In her formal introduction to the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners a week prior, she enthusiastically described herself as, “Georgia from Alabama who’s now in Flagler!”
Janet Kersey, of the Daytona Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, whom Turner has known and worked with for more than 20 years, knew she would say that. Describing her as an “exclamation point,” Kersey said that Turner lights up rooms and knows no strangers. She’s a “good ole Southern girl,” she said, the type that could get away with a one-word name, like Cher or Ellen.
“She’s just Georgia,” Kersey said.
But despite her casual tone, Turner is serious about destination marketing.
Having started Nov. 21, she comes to Flagler with 25 years of experience, most of which she breezed over in her presentation: used to be a journalist; used to own a marketing firm; used to direct, at once, 16 countys’ tourism efforts — oh, and has worked with the World Cup and, with Kersey, created Biketoberfest …
(Turner calls Kersey the “birth mother” of Biketoberfest, and herself the “mid-wife.” When the two launched what was then the Daytona Fall Tour in 1992, it attracted about 15,000 people. Today, it attracts more than 125,000.)
But that was then, Tuner’s tone seems to say, which, according to her husband Eddie, is par for the course. She’s always been a workaholic, he says, and almost too humble.
It was he who pointed out that Turner also received a Tourism Professional of the Year Award in 2000 from the governor of Alabama, where she marketed the 16-county Mountain Lakes region. She never said a word about it.
“It was cool,” she said instead, sitting in a chair nearby rather than the one behind her desk. “I got to work with a lot of world-class companies during that time.”
Looking back, however, it’s the little things she cherishes. She likes finding an area’s nooks and crannies. Every county has them, she says, its “tidbits” and “wonderful things.” Getting them recognized, to her, is serious business.
“(Tourism) is not just fun and games,” she said Dec. 3. “It’s really economic development … I know that a big part of my job will be to put heads in beds.”
She’ll do that by revamping the VisitFlagler website, expanding Flagler’s Canadian presence and implementing visitor-profile, among other things.
Her husband, Eddie, who worked in the funeral service for six years, was a standup comic and is now back in school for social work, sounds like a boy with a crush when describing Georgia. She’s a “salt-of-the-earth type,” he says. They’ve never had an argument. She’s hyper-organized and always has a system, even for writing Christmas cards. And she’s incorrigibly happy, even at 6 a.m.
Melanie Beauchamp, who worked with Turner 10 years in Tennessee, says the same, citing Turner’s daily Facebook statuses about loving life and making the best of the week. “Mrs. Positive,” she calls her.
Even while Turner battled intestinal cancer in 2007, she still had her signature “permanent grin,” Beauchamp added. And she never stopped working.
“If you can’t work with Georgia Turner, then you can’t work with anybody,” she said.
Kersey agrees. “She’s just going to do remarkable things for Flagler,” she said. “She’ll take your little town by storm.”