Photo by Heather Middleton
By Kathy Jefcoats
To hear Pat Sebo brag about Jonesboro, you'd think she grew up in the shade of Stately Oaks and skinned her knee riding bikes along the road to Tara, but the Cobb County native has called the city home for about five years.
Sebo, a Jonesboro City Councilwoman, has made her mark, however, and was one of three people honored this week by the Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau for their tourism efforts.
"I was pleasantly surprised and honored," said Sebo. "It was very nice of them to acknowledge my efforts in the city. I see this as something I need to do, not just as an elected official, but as a citizen. I love this city."
Rebekah Cline, director of marketing and communications for the city's tourism bureau, said all three are well-deserving recipients. The other two are: Chris Phillips, former general manager of the Suburban Extended Stay Hotel, and Bonnie Pratt, publisher of the Jonesboro Group of newspapers, which includes the Clayton News Daily.
"Pat Sebo has been wonderful in so many capacities," said Cline. "She introduced an increase in the hotel occupancy tax, and is a volunteer for many events, including Taste of Clayton."
Cline said the Suburban Extended Stay Hotel is an active partner in hotel-package deals. As general manager, Phillips sat on an advisory board concerning the starting of a reunion sales network and participated in a Travel South Showcase in Atlanta.
Pratt was recognized for her newspaper's efforts in promoting Jonesboro and for coverage of tourism-related issues.
Sebo said tourism is critical to the city.
"We are a jewel of an oasis in the middle of Clayton County," she said. "We lost a lot of traffic when they moved the courthouse from downtown, but we are working on a streetscape project showcasing the city and making it more enticing for people to come downtown. Tourism is absolutely critical for Jonesboro."
Visitors are attracted to the Civil War connection, and also as home to the fictional Scarlett O'Hara's beloved Tara. Tourists can wander through an entire museum dedicated to one of the most popular books of all time, "Gone With The Wind."
Cline said tourism generated nearly 30,000 hospitality jobs in Clayton in 2010 that amounted to $1.68 billion in payroll. Tourism products and services brought $956 million to the county last year.
"Tourism continues to be a big economic engine for Clayton County," said Patrick Duncan, president and CEO of the bureau. "The latest economic-impact results show that gross receipts of our tourism product provide jobs and economic stimulus that are vital to our community."
In June, a city farmer's market comes to Jonesboro, courtesy of the Clayton County Extension Service, said Sebo. The market will be open Saturday and Tuesday mornings through September, behind Heritage Bank, and will feature local growers and Master Gardeners. The extension service will be offering gardening classes, nearby, at the same time.