By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary Marcheta Sparrow is to retire from her $137,865-a-year state post May 31, Gov. Steve Beshear said Friday.
“Secretary Sparrow has done a fantastic job of continuing to improve and develop Kentucky’s tourism through some very challenging times,” Beshear said in a news release, mentioning the recently announced 4.4 percent growth last year in tourism’s economic impact to the state.
“I want to thank her for her steady leadership and her lifelong contributions to Kentucky’s travel and hospitality industry, which have played an important role in maintaining tourism as a major economic force for Kentucky.”
Beshear said he will name a replacement soon.
Sparrow was named secretary in December 2007 by Beshear after serving nine years as president and chief executive officer of the Kentucky Tourism Council (now the Kentucky Travel Industry Association).
During her 40-year career, Sparrow also held management positions at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau, Kentucky Derby Festival and Frankfort Tourism Commission. She began her career as a tour guide at the Kentucky State Capitol.
In 1996 Sparrow received the tourism industry’s highest honor – the Kentucky Tourism Council Distinguished Service Award.
“It’s been an honor to work with the dedicated employees of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet all across the Commonwealth, and I thank Gov. Beshear for giving me this opportunity to place the capstone on a very fulfilling career,” Sparrow said in a statement.
Sparrow said she plans to spend more time with her family, pursue new interests and become more involved in her home community of Harrodsburg.
The Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet includes the Department of Travel and Tourism, the Department of Parks and the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
Other agencies that make up the cabinet include the Frankfort Convention Center, the Governor’s School for the Arts, the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea, the Kentucky Arts Council, the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, the Kentucky Heritage Council, the Kentucky Historical Society, the Kentucky Horse Park, the Kentucky State Fair Board, the Office of Creative Services, the Kentucky Sports Authority and the Kentucky Humanities Council.