New venture with MADD comes calling for ET native

 

Kim Morris learned as a teenager that she wanted to be a "comforting spirit."

Mrs. Morris, 34, grew up in the small East Texas town of Garrison. The summer before her senior year in high school, her mom was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 42. She died before Mrs. Morris graduated high school.

Hospice of Deep East Texas not only helped her mother, but helped the entire family.

"It was such a blessing, a saving grace to have the social workers come in," she said.

It was then that she decided she wanted to go into the social work field.

"I wanted to be a comforting spirit," she said.

Joking that her resume is so long it looks like a Wal-Mart receipt, Mrs. Morris has always worked in social work and for nonprofit organizations. She attended Stephen F. Austin State University for a couple of years before earning her degree in social work from The University of Texas at Arlington.

She worked for Child Protective Services in Dallas and the Department of Children & Families in Connecticut before moving back home and working for a foster care company in Center.

After she moved to Tyler, Mrs. Morris worked as program specialist for Mothers Against Drunk Driving here for two years. She gave presentations to schools and offender classes, worked with colleges and coalitions and worked with the media.

Around the time MADD began downsizing across the nation, a public relations specialist position opened up at Carter BloodCare, so Mrs. Morris took that job for two years before she went to work for the Tyler Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"It was a great opportunity to learn and to grow," she said.

 

SELLING THE CITY

When Mrs. Morris began working at the CVB in 2011, it was undergoing a reorganization sparked by the Industry Growth Initiative, which pointed out that Tyler needed a unified voice to help promote tourism to the city.

Tourism offers a huge economic impact to the city, she added. More than 2,000 jobs here directly relate to the tourism industry, so the CVB began reevaluating how it did things, she said.

"The CVB is a great organization that really embraces new ideas and approaches on how to do things," said Mrs. Morris, who became the assistant vice president of marketing/communications for the CVB.

Basically managing the brand that is Tyler, she works on advertising, social media, news releases, presentations, pitching stories and creative ideas, goes to conferences to sell Tyler, supports events and seasons and supports the other three women with what they are doing.

Shari Rickman manages the department and works to bring in large meetings and conventions to Tyler. Susan Travis works on general tourism, such as bringing in bus groups. And Cindy Smoak works to bring sporting events to the city.

"I work with all of these ladies to enhance their efforts," Mrs. Morris said.

She said the women look at what works and doesn't work and monitor how their dollars are being spent. The CVB is paid for by hotel/motel taxes.

Mrs. Morris said she also started working with different community entities, finding events and attractions that would be interesting to people living outside of Tyler, and working on getting stories in publications outside of the city. She has gotten articles in magazines, newspapers and blogs throughout Texas and the United States.

She also has enhanced what the CVB does with social media to boost its digital presence. It is now on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flicker and Pinterest.

"The tourism industry is fun, but highly competitive," she said.

 

NEW VENTURE

Three weeks ago, Mrs. Morris got a call from Vicki Knox, the former executive director for MADD in Tyler who had previously hired her. Ms. Knox, now the chief operating officer for MADD at the national level, offered Mrs. Morris a chance at an interview for a job. Starting June 19, she will be MADD's national program manager.

The national headquarters of MADD is in Las Colinas by Irving.

Mrs. Morris said MADD is reformatting programs and is taking things her and Ms. Knox worked on together in Tyler to the national scale.

"It's an amazing, exciting opportunity to get in there and make a difference," she said, adding that it is a "scary, big" undertaking but is also exciting.

Mrs. Morris's husband of two years, Mike, does maintenance for Burns Commercial Properties and they have two daughters, Riley, 8, and Mae, 19 months. She said her children are her hobbies and because she grew up in the country, she enjoys going to the lake to fish, she said.

The family also volunteers for East Texas Cares, Mission Tyler and for a mentoring program through Tyler Independent School District.

If you know of a professional woman or business service in the Tyler area you think should be highlighted in this column, contact Business Editor Casey Murphy at cmurphy@tylerpaper.com or 903-596-6289.

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