By Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun
Virginia Wright has been the executive director of the Tucumcari Chamber of Commerce for nine years. But this week, as she sits in the chamber office and looks out at thepassing traffic on Route 66, she was saying goodbye, to the chamber, to Tucumcari.
She and her husband Larry are moving to east Texas, near Palestine, to be close to her 85-year-old mom, who is in ill health. The Wrights have sold their cattle ranch south of town and bought a horse ranch in Texas that will also have a few head of cattle.
Chamber president Debbie Lafferty said the chamber is defining the excutive director’s position and will probably have in the near future a new job description.
Since Wright’s early years with the chamber, Wright says, “I’ve seen a change for the better in people’s attitudes. They are encouraged. As much as people hate road construction, I think they can see the progress that the new roads represent.”
She adds, “New businesses have been developing in the area. Big ones, like The Holiday Inn Express on I-40 (and) smaller ones like Studio 66, a clothing boutique.”
She has some advice.
“All of the townspeople should show their pride in the area,” Wright said. “Tourism is an economic boost to us, so it’s important to fully capture that market.”
Stronger efforts, she suggested, could be made to keep employees in the hotels and restaurants up-to-date on what tourists and passersby might be interested in. Visitors should be welcomed and given reasons to spend more time in Tucumcari.
“That first impression is the lasting impression that people will have of us,” Wright said. Tucumcari is not known as a destination site, but it is a place where people, in-state, will stay on their way for recreation at Ute Lake. Or, where travelers, possibly drawn off of I-40 will come into town, visit some attractions and spend one or two nights, she said.
As if on cue, two women, a mother and her daughter, came into the chamber office asking about the city’s murals by Sharon and Doug Quarles. First intrigued by the Dinosaur Museum signs, they had been lured off the Interstate, visited the museum, spent the night in a local motel and were now touring through town to see all of Tucumcari’s many murals.
“We have a lot to offer,” Wright said. “We like to think that people can come visit one more time and spend one more night in one of our hotels.
“There’s also a great opportunity for people to retire here, as well.”
That doesn’t mean the job’s easy for the chamber or Tucumcari.
“There will always be challenges, we just have to keep smiling and working at it,” she said.
And the Chamber is working at it. One improvement Mrs. Wright has seen is the marketing consortium that makes Tucumcari’s tourism efforts eligible for more money from the state and makes it possible to develop a coordinated theme for their message.
“And a lot of things are happening, that we can’t see yet, like the planned improvement of the rail station,” she said.
But Wright’s main message was: “I’ll miss everyone here.”