Former state tourism commissioner will now lead local agency

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Mike Mangeot hired as Bardstown-Nelson County Tourist Commission executive director

By Forrest Berkshire, Editor

 Mike Mangeot once focused on how to bring visitors to the entire state of Kentucky.

But starting this month, the former state commissioner of travel and tourism will be focusing solely on Bardstown and Nelson County.

Mangeot was hired by the Bardstown-Nelson County Tourist Commission Tuesday morning as its new executive director during a special-called meeting.

“I really think it’s one of the top travel and tourism jobs in Kentucky,” Mangeot said in an interview with The Standard Tuesday morning. “It’s got everything you want in an experience. … In travel and tourism you want authentic experience, and that’s what Bardstown is.”

Mangeot said bourbon tourism has led the way in the state and locally, and Bardstown already has leveraged that trend. He said he saw his job as finding a way to elevate the town to the next level.

“Bardstown is in a great position,” Mangeot said. “This isn’t a situation where I am coming in and building from the ground up. There’s a great base here. I think the community understands the value of tourism, which is important.”

Mangeot said Bardstown needs to build more amenities to attract more visitors, and especially to convert the day-trippers into overnight stays.

“We want people to spend the night, because they will spend more money. Tourism is all about economic development.”

Mangeot alluded to California’s Napa Valley region, renowned for its wine country. But he pointed out that Napa is the center of a whole region that comprises more than vineyards and wineries.

“I think Bardstown should be the center of our Napa here, bourbon country, and that’s working with the existing distilleries and trying to recruit new businesses.”

Mangeot said bourbon tourism is multifaceted, but there are some potential visitors who think bourbon tourism is just about drinking. He said interest in bourbon tourism can grab people’s attention and be used to interest them in other aspects of the area.

“You have to lead with your best shot, and once you’ve got their attention you tell them about everything else,” he said.

Mangeot will bring an extensive experience in both economic development and the tourism industry. He served in the administrations of governors Paul Patton and Steve Beshear as the deputy commissioner and director of marketing and advertising for the state tourism office before he was named commissioner of travel and tourism. According to a press release accompanying his hiring, he oversaw the day-to-day operations of the state’s lead marketing agency and was responsible for strategic planning, creation and implementation of marketing plans for television, digital, print, radio, public relations and communications. He also served as president and CEO of the Kentucky Association for Economic Development for more than seven years.

His job with the state ended when Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican, took office and appointed new commissioners to replace those appointed by his Democratic predecessors.

Since Mangeot left state government, he has worked as a consultant to the tourism industry.

Mangeot is a native of Covington but has lived in Frankfort since childhood. He said he plans to commute from Frankfort because he has a daughter in high school there and his wife is an elected district judge.

Mangeot starts in the new job Feb. 19 at a salary of about $90,000 a year. He replaces former director Dawn Przystal, who resigned Sept. 29 after 14 years at the commission.

Local leaders expressed support for Mangeot’s hiring.

“Tourism is a major business for us and I am confident Mike will help this industry grow and at the same time enhance the visitor experience here in Bardstown and Nelson County,” Bardstown Mayor Dick Heaton said in the press release.

Josh Hollifield, who works at Barton 1792 Distillery, is the chairman and was a member of the search committee for the new executive director.

“The commission and I feel that Mike’s extensive experience in both the tourism and marketing fields will allow him to lead Bardstown and Nelson County in exciting new directions as we continue to honor our rich history and advance our recognition as Bourbon Capital of the World,” he said.