FAIRFIELD — Terry Baker has been tabbed as the new executive director of the Fairfield Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Baker takes over for former Director Rustin Lippincott, who stepped down in March. Baker has worked for the visitors bureau for 12 years, most of which she spent as the bureau’s assistant director. After Lippincott resigned, Baker was appointed interim director.
Since Lippincott split his time between running the visitors bureau and Fairfield Arts & Convention Center, Baker was given a large number of responsibilities, such as spearheading initiatives like citywide branding and the community tourism assessment.
Visitors bureau board President Marg Dwyer said the bureau is in great hands with Baker, whom she described as a competent and capable leader, a skilled marketer and a staunch cheerleader for the community.
“We are thrilled to have her continue with the bureau and excited to have her at the helm,” Dwyer said. “Terry’s creativity, energy and loyalty to this region and the CVB are deeply appreciated and greatly valued.”
As assistant director, Baker was the visitors bureau’s only full-time employee. She said she felt her responsibility was to find new ways to make Fairfield a tourism destination, and that involved bringing in outside experts. In 2015, the bureau hired a firm from Wisconsin to spend several days in Fairfield and produce a report with suggestions for improving tourism. One of the suggestions that came from that assessment was that Fairfield needed a solid brand.
The visitors bureau, arts center, city hall and other groups coordinated on a set of logos and taglines to market the city. Other pieces of advice from the assessment involved what businesses could do to improve tourism. Baker said that’s an important part of the director’s role, because even though the director has no control over a business’s decisions, they can educate businesses about the impression they leave with visitors. It can include things like the appearance of a business to customer service.
“It can even include things like their posted hours,” Baker said. “If they say they’re going to be open at a certain time and they’re not, that leaves an impression. How the sidewalk looks and whether it’s weeded is another example of that.”
The visitors bureau has had a hand in several downtown improvement projects with Baker’s help, such as the installation of 55 light poles earlier this spring, and installing banners last year advertising how Fairfield is a great place to “Play!”, “Create!” and “Eat!”, all words printed on the banners with accompanying photographs.
Baker said some towns have done a great job of branding, of establishing a unique identity. Pella, for instance, is known for its tulip festival and Dutch culture. Riverside is famous for TrekFest. Baker said the visitors bureau’s board is working hard to market Fairfield as a “quirky community” that is into sustainability and food, as evidenced by its renewable energy and eco-friendly companies and its wide variety of restaurants.
“One thing I notice in the branding process is that people frequently want to have what they think is normal, to create more acceptance and less judgment, but the truth of the matter is that by doing so we water down what makes the community unique,” she said. “When you travel, do you want to go to a place that describes itself as normal, as just like every other place, or one that is unique?”
Baker said the project she’s working on now is keeping Fairfield in the forefront of everyone’s mind, especially people who live within driving distance of the town. The visitors bureau’s tagline during this coronavirus pandemic has been “Visit Fairfield … Later.”