Come June 1, not having Lynn Lucas connected with the Columbus Area Visitors Center anymore will be a strange feeling.
In 16 years of taking local tourism to greater heights, she had become synonymous with spreading the attributes of the city and inviting out-of-towners to come see what makes Columbus unique.
She officially retired as executive director May 1 but is serving as a consultant through the end of May while new executive director Karen Niverson gets acclimated to the position and community.
Lucas joined the Visitors Center in 1999, serving as associate director for five years before taking over as executive director in 2004.
Her tenure was notable for a variety of reasons, but several stand out:
Working in cooperation with former Columbus Parks and Recreation Department Director Chuck Wilt, Lucas helped attract visitors to Columbus through a sports tourism program.
In 2010, a partnership was formed with the Indianapolis Museum of Art to open the Miller House and Garden to the public.
All Visitors Center tours increased 278 percent from 2010 to 2013, with 913 tours in the final year of that period.
She also played a key role in attracting national meetings, conferences and exhibits to Columbus, such as the Paul Rand exhibit and Harry Weese Symposium.
While local residents understand the impact she’s had on the city through her job, a greater appreciation is gained when you consider how she’s viewed by tourism leaders on the state level. At a May 7 private gathering to honor Lucas at The Commons, Indiana Office of Tourism Development Director Mark Newman said Lucas has provided leadership, insight and stability for this industry at the state level for a long time. Her accomplishments with Columbus earned Lucas statewide respect and made her a go-to person for advice.
The city and state have benefited from Lucas’ commitment to promoting the Columbus area. That dedication is appreciated, and the community is better because of it.