Herb Handly is about to become a “visitor” at the Blount County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Before he worked his last day before retirement, however, friends, colleagues and dignitaries gathered to wish him well and sing his praises.
Handly’s last day on the job as vice president of the bureau is Friday. On Tuesday, the conference room at the Blount County Chamber of Commerce was packed with folks who have had their lives and businesses impacted by the work Handly has done.
Handly and his wife, Phyllis, greeted folks as they filed into the room for the late afternoon reception on June 28.
“It was really overwhelming, all the folks coming in and visiting with me,” he said. “I tell you, everyone was so nice and had so many nice thing to say. I really appreciate the response. It was great.”
Community group leaders may be lining up at Handly’s door. “I expect to continue to be active in the community,” Handly said, “and I will try to help out wherever I’m needed.”
Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell said he didn’t think there was a better person for the job at the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau than Handly. “I’m not sure there is anyone who has done more for tourism than what he has done,” Mitchell said.
Maryville Vice Mayor Andy White said Handly has had a major impact on tourism in Blount County. “He’s done a great job in Townsend and with the airport properties,” White said.
Bill Hammon, assistant city manager for the City of Alcoa, said Handly made a positive impact with tourism in Blount County. “He drew business to hotels in Alcoa, and we’ll miss him,” Hammon said.
District 8 State Sen. Doug Overbey said, “I’m not sure anybody knows as much about tourism as Herb Handly.”
District 20 State Rep. Bob Ramsey said Handly has been a pillar of the community. “He has anchored the efforts to see tourism become an essential part of our local economy and culture,” Ramsey said.
District 4-C Blount County commissioner Jerome Moon said, “Herb not only promoted Blount County, he promoted the region, the National Park and all aspects of the area.”
Blount Chamber Partnership president and CEO Bryan Daniels said the Partnership is proud of the work Handly did during his tenure. “We have built a brand name of our tourism industry, and we look forward to capitalizing on all the hard work that has been done,” he said.
Chamber Foundation chair Sharon Hannum praised Handly. “Herb has worked really, really hard,” Hannum said. “I can’t imagine a conversation about tourism without Herb Handly.”
Jeanie Hilten, special event coordinator with the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said she worked with Handly for five years. She praised him for having a vision for building heritage and sustainable tourism for Blount County. “He had a vision for all Blount County and where we could be, not just for tourists, but for people who live here,” she said.
Bunker Handly, manager of the Belk department store at Foothills Mall, said his brother has always had a passion for this area. “He has an ability to pull people together,” Bunker Handly said.
Kathy Wilbanks praised Handly for his efforts to bring the Experience Your Smokies program to Blount County. “If it hadn’t been for Herb, we would not have it,” she said. “He was the driving force behind Experience Your Smokies. He’s my hero.”
Jewell Overton, director of sales with Courtyard Marriott, serves on the Convention and Visitors Bureau and praised Handly for his efforts for tourism in Blount County. “He’ll be sorely missed, and his successor will have big shoes to fill,” she said. Joe Huff, director of the Maryville Alcoa Blount County Parks and Recreation, said Handly has promoted the area with regards to Park and Rec’s annual Smoky Mountain Classic Softball Tournament. “He’s a great asset, promoting the community to the country,” Huff said.
Dale Ditmanson, superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, said Handly is his go-to person with regard to Park matters in Blount County. “Since I’ve been here, Herb has been the contact between the Park and the community,” Ditmanson said.
Boyce Smith, manager of the Alcoa Wal-Mart, recalled when Handly was first hired on as vice president of the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. “He was the right person at the right time,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of synergy coming out of the Chamber, and that synergy is brought together by Herb.”
Bob Patterson said when he became director of the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center eight years ago, Handly helped him. “He supported us by helping us find grants so financially we could make things happen,” Patterson said.
Highland Manor Inn and Conference Center owner Sandy Headrick said, “I don’t know how we’re going to replace him. He’s done what he needed to do. I don’t know how we’re going to move ahead without him.”
Teri Brahams, executive director of Business and Community Services at Pellissippi State Community College, said Handly’s passion for this community will be difficult to replace. “He brought a unique skill set because of his career in retail,” she said. “He could motivate people to do their best.”