"I'm really excited to be here. I really want to work with the communities and help Sikeston-Miner bring in more visitors and help the economy in the process," said Hillary Shields about her new position.
Since her first day as executive director Nov. 3, Shields has hit the ground running.
"Right now I'm working on a 2008 calendar, gathering information for our Missouri Division of Tourism marketing grant, and communicating with tour operators to try to bring groups to Sikeston and Miner," she said.
As the only full-time staff member at the CVB, there will be plenty of challenges such as "balancing all the aspects of the job," Shields said. "It ranges from attending trade shows to doing bookkeeping to working with local business and organizations, putting out promotional materials. ... Since I'm new here I'm still learning all the responsibilities."
Shields moved here from her hometown, Kirksville, in December to be near what is now her husband, Mitchel Shields, who was also from Kirksville.
"He came down here to work as an engineer at the Noranda aluminum plant," she explained.
In some ways Sikeston is different than her hometown. "It has more of the Southern hospitality," she said. "But it is also very similar because I came from a small town as well."
Shields earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology/anthropology from Truman State University in Kirksville. "I had originally planned to go into museum studies," she said.
Shields said she is excited about her new position, however. "It's still dealing a lot with the public and bringing in visitors, so it's a lot like what I was going to go into," she said.
"There are several aspects of Sikeston-Miner that I think will draw people in," Shields said. "We have the rodeo which of course everyone knows is a huge draw."
There are also several festivals both in town, such as the Cotton Carnival, and in the immediate area, such as the Dogwood-Azalea Festival in Charleston, which bring a lot of people to this region, she noted.
Being located between St. Louis and Memphis, Tenn., Shields said she intends to encourage travelers to "not just to pass through but stop and see what we have to offer."
With everything from shopping and museums to nice motels, Lambert's Cafe and other restaurants, Sikeston and Miner are the perfect place to "act as hub for day trips to all our surrounding communities," Shields said. "And of course, there is our downtown district, which is beautiful."
Shields already has some ideas on bringing more visitors here as a destination.
"We are going to want to promote Sikeston as a weekend getaway from the big cities," she said.
While people here may enjoy visiting the cities for vacations, city dwellers often like to vacation in small towns "where things are slower and safer," Shields said. "They can relax and get away from the stress."