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Tourism director resigns position

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Jennifer Keck

Keck ends tenure as officials continue to debate restructuring

By Kim Walter -- kwalter@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Local merchants are giving the town's outgoing tourism director high marks for her tenure in the post even as town officials debate how the position will be structured in the future.

Jennifer Keck has resigned as tourism director after holding the job since 2007.
As the director, Keck was responsible for marketing, office work and relations with tourists coming to the Front Royal-Warren County Visitors Center.

Town officials are discussing whether to combine the functions of the position with that of a marketing coordinator.

Keck said she's "sad about the timing" of her resignation and noted that she had not finished all the work she started in the post.

"When people come to the area, they don't see the political lines," she said. "Front Royal is part of Warren County, which is part of the Shenandoah Valley. You have to promote it all."

Keck said that she greatly enjoyed her work, and hopes to find another job like it in the future. Keck had little to say about her reasons for leaving the position, only that she wants "to stay on the higher road and leave it at that."

Numbers related to tourism show just how well Keck did in the job, said Mayor Tim Darr. In 2010, more than $105 million in visitor spending was generated by tourism alone, according to local officials.

"She was certainly committed to her work," Darr said.

Keck recently hired Katie Kerns to work at the center, and the new employee said Keck was there pretty much every day interacting with visitors and promoting local businesses and attractions.

"She always told people how Front Royal is a great destination to unwind and relax, and it offers a little bit of everything," Kerns said.

Andrew Napier, wine manager at J's Gourmet on Main Street, said many people who come to the restaurant and shop are referred there by the Visitor's Center.

"Jennifer was always very good to us, not to mention she was a regular patron here," Napier said. "Whatever she was doing was working."

Craig Laird, president of downtown business Royal Oak Computers, said he's sorry to see her leave the post.

Since Keck took the tourism job, she has brought cohesiveness to the area's marketing effort and "always maintained a level of professionalism in the department," he said.
As the area looks to develop its tourism economy, the position becomes that much more important, he said.


Why is it that most decent people leave our community? Let's face it... most people who have the education and background maybe try us for a while but then politely move on. (Check the Animal Shelter, for example.) Our culture of drugs, guns, and deadbeats (not to mention criminals paraded around as "fine" people) does not serve us well. Let's put an end to our culture that teaches children that, hey, do whatever you want, and if you come up short you can use our inbred rallying cry of "Lemme make it right." Our kids and citizens need to know that most failures can't be made right... normal people who have something REAL to offer may check us out, but they will move on to normal communities.


This is an opportunity for the Town Council and the Warren County Board of Supervisors to work together. Front Royal and Warren County need to look forward and realize that we have always had a golden opportunity sitting right in our Front Yard. Several things come to mind. The entrance to the Shenandoah National Park, the Battle of Front Royal and the Entrance of the Shenandoah valley and the history behind the Shenandoah Valley Campaign during the Civil War. Front Royal has so many opportunities for attracting Tourists and we are not taking full advantage of those opportunities!

Negative attitudes like the one just listed will not help Front Royal and Warren County's Tourism Department. Instead of Spouting off Negative comments like the one posted above why don't we work together to make Front Royal and Warren County a better place to live. If we have an atmosphere of people coming in to try us out and then moving on instead of bashing our citizens and Government why not work together to change the things that need changing in Front Royal and Warren County.

Standing on the sidelines and shouting that nothing will ever get any better without offering to help will accomplish nothing. There is an old saying. If you don't like something change it. Oh and here is an idea! The local elections especially the town Elections are the some of the lowest attended elections in this town. Get up off your lazy butt and go vote! Find a candidate that shares your vision and mission for your community and go vote for him or her. No more standing on the side lines! Get out there in your community and do something.

Parts of Tim Ratigan's comment I could not agree with more... I like your attitude that disparaging things will not really accomplish anything.

But really... We are talking about Main St. The major theme there has been "why isn't the Town doing more," "why are we always getting the short end of the stick," and I really am sick of it. Carry your own weight... if you were WORTH it, then they would go there.

Main St. is what Main St. does. I know myself personally--I go to either the Daily Grind or the Lucky Star. Sure, we can attract tourists but that is a small piece of the puzzle. Why is there nothing to do in Front Royal after 7pm? That is the main question. You can go to the Lucky Star or the Wine & Duck but that is it. If you aren't there to spend some money on food & drink then what is there? Nothing. You have a few places to choose from but until there are more merchants it is futile.

A computer shop that sells overpriced parts? A candy store that sells what you could buy from Martins from the bin? Come on, you have to offer more. I think that the biggest problem with Main St is Main St... not the Town. Offer something more, and really focus on service. This is precisely why the hiking shop failed. The service was terrible. I went in there many times and you had to chase someone down to buy something. People are smarter than this now and will simply go to Walmart or Target or just order it online.

Mr. Ratigan criticizes negativity and then admonishes people he has never met to, "Get up off your lazy butt and go vote!" First off, referring to someone's "lazy" (how would he know?) posterior using the red neck vernacular seems pretty negative to me... Second, I think it's quite likely that individuals who care enough to participate in this blog are some of the few who do get out and vote, so that part of Mr. Ratigan's exhortation just really sounds like irrational boilerplate.

Geoff has a point about services sometimes lacking on Main Street. A couple of the antiques shops lie to sell furniture but make customers jump through hoops to get it delivered. That said, I personally like making the rounds on Main Street and believe that if our demographics were a little more well-to-do we would see more activity there. As it is, though, a lot of us need to go where the bargains are.

Maybe the tourism industry should fund the Directors position instead of taxpayers money!

A long time ago when I wanted something to happen for me when I was teenager my mother would say, Tim, Get off your lazy butt and do it yourself. The people who get out and vote for their elected officials in Front Royal know who they are. And they know that my comment was not directed at them. The people I am talking too is the ones who I have met over the years and who do nothing but complain about the town and the Government and Main Street and how the Town Government is never doing things right. I of course ask them if they voted in the last election. I generaly get an answer like, "No don't have time or can't be bothered." And yes the "Can't be bothered" is used on a quite often. Like it or not history has shown that a large precentage, Not all, but a large precentage of Front Royal Citizens are very apathetic when comes to voting in their town elections. The only time they get riled up is when their taxes are going up or Main Street is asking the town for help. Then when it might affect their pocket books then they get quite energized. But those same people can't quite get energized enough to get out and vote.

You can lable my comments anything you want but the facts are the facts and it is up to individual voters to make the sacrifice and effort to spend the extra 20 to 30 minutes to physically go out and vote for the candidate of your choice. There are good qualified candidates out there willing to run and willing to serve for the sole sake of serving their fellow Resident and don't because of the apathetic voters that choose not to vote because "they simply can't be bothered."

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