Tourist Commission Chair is upbeat about County
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By Eugenia Jones
As Chairperson of the McCreary County Tourist Commission, Jesse Kidd’s enthusiasm and passion for the growth of local tourism and his appreciation and love of McCreary County have their roots strongly embedded around his childhood memories and the lineage of his ancestors throughout McCreary County’s history.
“I still remember visiting and sleeping in the screened-in porch on the side of the building that was the King Edward Restaurant,” Jesse reminisced. “We slept under lots of blankets-about six layers-to keep warm.”
It was Jesse’s great grandmother, Lola King, who operated the King Edward, a popular restaurant, for many years and who was also the county’s first woman “official,” serving as County Clerk at the Courthouse.
“My great uncle was Sheriff Herman Hamlin, and I remember spending lots of days going into the old knife and gun shop and listening, wide-eyed, to the stories he told of raiding moonshine stills,” Jesse continued. “I’ve had lots of wonderful relatives in the county and still do.”
Having spent several years of hard physical labor and maneuvering government red tape in his effort to relocate the old London marina to Beaver Creek on the Cumberland River in the midst of McCreary County’s Daniel Boone National Forest, Jesse is busy fulfilling his own dreams of bringing tourism to McCreary County. Once completed, Kidd’s ultimate contribution to the growth of tourism in McCreary County will be a finished marina proudly sporting the name of Boone Docks Marina.
“I’ve jumped through a lot of hoops and hurdles to get water, electricity, and boat launching permits,” Kidd explained. “At the time I was getting electricity, Boone Docks (with 19,000 feet) was one of the longest underground electric utilities ever ran by RECC.”
Currently, Kidd is waiting on road improvements to the marina.
“We’ve received a grant through the Forest Service to improve the county road to the marina,” Kidd explained. “When that is completed, I plan to host an opening day for Boone Docks Marina. It will open with the marina, slip rentals, public camping grounds, and a launching ramp.”
Presently, Kidd has one cabin rental listed on AirBnB and hopes to expand rentals at some point in the future.
Kidd has served on the McCreary County Tourist Commission for approximately ten years, serving as chair of the commission for four of those years. Kidd joined the commission after he was approached by the McCreary County Judge Executive and invited to serve as a representative for local eateries (Kidd was the owner/operator of the popular ZZ’s Restaurant for twenty-five years.) Kidd later became a representative of lodging.
When asked why he is passionate about McCreary County tourism, Kidd is quick to respond.
“This is my hometown,” Kidd exclaimed. “I’d love to see it grow. As a child, the biggest thing was the carnival. It was such a great thing to see all the people come back, year after year, coming back home to McCreary County to visit. We have so much to offer, and I want it to get even better. We have over 640,000 acres of trails, arches, rivers, and waterfalls. I want people to come to the county and give them a reason to come back.”
Kidd’s mindset when it comes to McCreary County and tourism does not include negativity. He’s all about hard work and being positive.
“We need to build on the wonderful things we already have, build on what we’ve got,” Kidd stated. “We can clean up our area and promote what we have. I want to get our name out there. We need to be constructive.”
Recently, the tourist commission has been embroiled in debate about stiffening collection procedures and penalties for late transient taxes. While Kidd acknowledges the importance of the current transient tax (local three percent tax on hotel stays, vacation rentals, etc.) and the role the tourist commission plays in maintaining those taxes, he does not feel the tourist commission should become so focused on acting as tax collectors to the point of losing focus on improving the county for tourism.
“I feel the county has done well collecting transient taxes by using the current ordinance, both in the past and present. I don’t think there is really the need for a change.” Kidd noted. “I don’t see our primary role in county tourism as being tax collectors. I want us to be fair to everyone, and I’d love to see more people get involved. To me, the most challenging aspect of tourism is getting people involved and getting people to come to the county.”
“I want us to be more focused on giving people a reason to visit our county again and again,” Kidd said enthusiastically. “ McCreary County is unique. We are not Pulaski, Russell, or Wayne Counties. We are McCreary County. My goal is to get people talking positively about this county. I want them to say, ‘Wow! What a beautiful place!’
(For a related article, see the McCreary County Museum’s “Glimpse of the Past” in this week’s edition of The Voice.)