DeKALB – Debbie Armstrong, longtime executive director of the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau, is retiring at the end of March, but wants you to know she’ll still be singing the praises of the county and all its hardworking folks.
Armstrong on Tuesday confirmed that she will be exiting the role she’s held since the bureau was formed in 2006, and says the time just felt right.
“It’s been an honor and a joy to work with the people [of DeKalb County],” Armstrong said. “This has been a career that’s been filled with lots of exciting things. There’s never a dull moment, and it requires somebody with lots of energy and boundless enthusiasm, and I still have that.”
Brad Hoey, chairman of the bureau’s board of directors, said Armstrong has been a tremendous leader.
“She’s really been the heart and soul of the organization,” Hoey said. “She’s really put the organization on a very positive trajectory.”
While the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce mulled over the idea of growing the tourism arm of its organizations 13 years ago, Armstrong was on just the tourism committee.
“I was brought in to make sure we got a certified bureau and also that we were independent of the Chamber and our own 501(c)6,” Armstrong said. “There were lots of steps that had to happen for us.”
More than a decade after the bureau’s humble beginnings, Armstrong looks back with pride at how the organization has grown. She now has Erin Reynolds, a full-time sales coordinator, who will take on the executive director role in an interim capacity until a new person is chosen, Armstrong said. The bureau also has a thriving volunteer base to help with event planning and other operations.
“It feels like it went very quickly, in a good way,” Armstrong said of her tourism tenure. “We’ve been very busy. We just had an organizational assessment, and we put his suggestions to good use. We’ve been rebuilding our board. So we are poised to continue to do great things.”
Armstrong has been instrumental in building a countywide network of supporters to grow economic development and tourism in DeKalb. In 2017, tourism generated $98.8 million to the DeKalb County economy, which she wrote about in a December 2018 letter to the Chronicle.
“I have loved every minute of this job,” Armstrong said. “We have a terrific community, and it’s just a joyful thing to be able to sing the praises of all that folks that work in our hospitality and attraction and tourism industry here.”
As far as retirement goes, Armstrong said she’s just excited to spend more time with her family, and her one grandchild who lives in Plainfield, and enjoy the impending warm weather on her deck.