CLEARWATER – After 30 years with the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, office Manager Sandy Galloway has decided to retire.
Over the years, she has gained a wealth of knowledge, met many interesting people and has seen a number of changes in both the organization and the area. But Galloway has decided now is the time to relax and take things a little easier.
Galloway notes that it was in the late 1970s that a group of business leaders – including Don Seaton, owner of several hotels in Clearwater, and Wilson Hubbard of John’s Pass in Madeira Beach – formed what is now known as the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
At the time, 24 different communities in Pinellas County were all vying individually for tourist dollars. Those business leaders thought it would be more advantageous if all the communities joined together and formed a countywide organization to promote the area.
The state had just passed a resort tax, and Pinellas County became one of the first to utilize that tax to fund the organization, known at the time as the Pinellas Suncoast Tourist Development Council. The council’s offices were located at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport and consisted of three people: a director, assistant director and a secretary.
Galloway joined the organization when the council became known as Discover Florida Suncoast in 1981. She admits that at the time, she was simply “looking for a job” and the thought of a three-decade-long career didn’t enter her mind.
From a small office of three, the department has made many changes to both its staff and location. Today, there are some 30 people working for the CVB, now located at the St. Petersburg College Epicenter in Clearwater. While there have been many changes over the years, their mission has remained the same: to promote travel and tourism to Pinellas County throughout the world.
What may surprise some is that Galloway says she doesn’t like to travel herself. From an early age, she has had motion sickness so she prefers to travel only short distances.
However, Galloway recalls that when the staff was short-handed during her early days with the office, she filled in and traveled a lot to promote the area. She soon discovered it wasn’t as glamorous as some may think.
“The novelty wears off after about two months, at least it did for me,” she said. “I’m a homebody. I like getting off at five o’clock, going home and fixing dinner and reading the newspaper.”
So why retire now? Galloway said that besides having worked there so long, over the years times have changed.
“There’s a new generation, a new world, new technology and things move so fast,” she said. “I’m ready to hand the baton over to a future generation. I think they can handle it well.”
Galloway also said that she’s still very healthy now and feels it’s time to enjoy some things that she hasn’t had much time to do. One is to spend more time with her 10 grandchildren, all of whom live in the area.
Another is to garden. She finds gardening and weeding relaxing and believes that “growing your own food has benefits because it is healthier, organic and fresh.”
Executive Director D.T. Minich noted that Galloway has been with the organization since before it became part of Pinellas County government. Over the years, they have come to rely on her as their office manager more and more. She has become invaluable to them.
“Her historical knowledge is unprecedented and it will be a huge loss to us,” Minich said.
He added that while she will be sorely missed, the “whole staff is excited for her and we all hope she enjoys her retirement.”
This article was submitted by Pinellas County Communications.