Former Tourism board chair explains TDA chair selection

RUTHERFORD COUNTY, N.C. – The Rutherford County Tourism Development Authority former board chair offers her explanation of the board recommendation for the county commissioners’ appointment of a chair.


The TDA recently came under scrutiny when Michelle Whitaker, executive director, called for her $850,000 budget approval without advertising for a public hearing. Whitaker’s budget includes a hefty salary increase, adding new employees, and the continued subcontracting of its chartered marketing and promotion of Rutherford County.

TDA Executive Director Michelle Whitaker
TDA Executive Director Michelle Whitaker

Aanother conflict with TDA executive director arose when it was pointed out the Whitaker’s husband works on the management team of Rumbling Bald in Lake Lure. Whitaker had not revealed the possible conflict of interest.

Other conflicts of interests include the fact that the McConnell Group, Whitaker’s subcontractor with a hefty contract, also is the public relations firm for the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Polk County. Whitaker has also used the county’s occupancy tax funds to promote this venue and its lodging requirements despite the law that directs that these funds be used exclusively for tourism promotion of Rutherford County, N.C.

The commissioner chair asked Whitaker if there had been a vote made regarding the email poll of the nomination of board chair as her bylaws deemed necessary. Whitaker replied in the negative and stated that the “board chair appointment was the responsibility of the county commissioners.”

Dawn Hemmelsgarn, the former chair of the TDA board, addressed those concerns in public comments as seen in the video clip above.