Economic development, tourism welcome new staff members
By Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, Senior Staff Writer, [email protected]
The Crawford County Economic Development Corp. and Crawford County Tourism Board both recently welcomed new staff members. The two entities share office space in a building along S.R. 66 at Carefree.
Mandi Elliott is the marketing coordinator for economic development, and Kaylee Gildersleeve is the office manager for tourism development.
Elliott is a native of Houston, Texas. She moved to the county after marrying her husband, who grew up here. Life in the country is very different from the urban area where she grew up, she discovered.
“Now that I’m here, I can’t imagine ever going back to a place like Houston. It’s a literal concrete jungle,” she said.
Elliott graduated from Palm Beach (Fla.) Atlantic University in 2017 with a degree in education. When she didn’t find a teaching position, she pivoted to non-profit administration. She was intrigued by the marketing coordinator opening for economic development and said, “I was lucky enough to get the position.”
Elliott said she’s intrigued by “the psychology of what entices people to visit a place.”
Economic development, she said, “is so reliant on human connection. That’s so much of the process.”
CCEDC director Mike Thissen said Elliott will assist with messaging and day-to-day economic development activities.
“Mandi rose to the top due to her wanting to learn new things and has expressed enthusiasm for the role,” said Thissen. “Mandi brings fresh ideas to help our community and together with Kaylee make a great team to advance Crawford County.”
Elliott said the resources offered by Radius Indiana are a huge asset locally.
During her first week on the job, she attended a Radius Indiana conference.
“I learned a lot about the best economic development practices, what the goals and objectives are,” she said. “It was a great way to start.”
Elliott said quality of life plays a huge role in economic development; things like schools, parks, health care and housing are all important factors.
“Economic development has so many facets,” she said. “I would say economic development in the most general sense is trying to improve economic prosperity and the quality of life for people living in an area.”
Gildersleeve started working for tourism the same week as Elliott did for economic development. She succeeds Sharon Wilson, who filled the position for years.
“Sharon was an icon in the county,” said Mark Stevens. “Everybody loved Sharon, and we hated to see her leave.”
Gildersleeve graduated from Crawford County High School in 2015 and earned her bachelor’s degree in advertising in 2017.
Stevens said Gildersleeve’s familiarity with social media and her advertising degree are a great fit for the position. She’s currently working on a video to promote the county.
“I get to start from almost scratch with digital promotion, seeing what works,” Gildersleeve said. “I’m going to see how far we can take that video. That could be a big deal.”
Gildersleeve also plans to use the popular social media platform TikTok to promote the county. She thinks it’s a good fit because she sees a lot of adventure-related posts.
“That’s what Crawford County is, lots of adventures,” she said.
Gildersleeve said Crawford County’s outdoor recreation opportunities truly offer something for everyone.
“I would say Crawford County has something for the entire family,” she said. “Older generations can enjoy going out on a boat, camp in an RV while families and kids can enjoy caves and hiking on trails. … Everybody needs to spend time outside in the fresh air.”
Both women started in their roles in early June.