Jim Long, who was instrumental in the Eliza­bethtown Sports Park becoming a reality, has been tabbed interim executive director of the Elizabethtown Tourism and Convention Bureau.

He takes the role following the resignation, effective Friday, of Sherry Murphy, who has held the title of executive director for the last 18 years. Long previously has served as tourism’s chairman.

An announcement was made at Wednesday’s tourism board meeting.

“I’m very excited to be asked to serve as the interim director and feel that my serving will allow the board the time to perform a regional search for a qualified candidate to fill the position permanently,” Long said.

He served on the tourism commission from 2004 to 2013. During his time on the board, he served terms as chairman and treasurer and was a key person in the planning, design, building and opening of the sports park, as well as the creation of the required funding source.

Long said the sports park and tourism always have been important to him, and by allowing him to serve, he has been given a way to repay the community for all the opportunities it has provided for his family.

“I see this as an opportunity to help the community that has done so much for me. ... It’s just a way of me repaying the community for what I’ve gotten from it,” he said.

Current Chairman Patrick Clark called Long the right person for the position.

“His previous experience on the ETCB Commission will be beneficial to keeping things running smoothly as we search for a permanent executive director,” Clark said.

Long said his job is to carry on what Murphy has done for the last 18 years and give the board the opportunity to find somebody who can fill that role on a permanent basis without having to rush to find somebody. Long said he has no desire to take on the job full-time.

“The key word is ‘interim,’” he said. “Filling (Murphy’s) shoes is going to be a tough task for anyone. For me to be able to do it on a temporary basis to help transition is what it’s all about.”

Murphy is the new executive director of the Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitor Bur­eau.

“On behalf of the city and me personally, Sherry, thanks for your time. You’re a good friend,” Elizabethtown City Administrator Ed Poppe said at the board meeting. His words caused Murphy to begin to tear up.

Murphy said she was 26 when she was hired as executive director of the tourism bureau.

“It was a huge risk for this organization to hire someone so young. ... I hope you all think it was worth it,” Murphy told the commission. “I’ve met a lot of great people, we’ve had a lot of great board members over the years and it’s the highlight of my life working here.”

City council liaison Marty Fulkerson also praised Murphy’s contributions.

“They always say, ‘How do you measure if you’ve been successful as a leader? You leave a place better than you’ve found it.’ And Sherry Murphy has left E’town better than she has found it,” Fulkerson said.

In other Elizabeth­town Tourism and Convention Bureau news:

• The board voted Wednesday to contribute $25,000 more to the Greenspace’s Bridges to Nature project upon request from Poppe. This will increase the board’s contribution to $75,000.

The project, which is a collaborative effort between Green­space, the city of Eliza­­beth­town and the Elizabeth­town Tourism and Con­vention Bureau, will ensure at least two Americans with Disabi­lities Act-compliant bridges will be built at Freeman Lake Park, replacing bridges at the north end of the park near Ring Road.

Mary Alford can be reached at 270-505-1741 or malford@thenewsenterprise.com.

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