After 30 years of helping to put Reynoldsburg "on the map," Mary Hudson is stepping away from the nonprofit visitors bureau she helped start.

Hudson, 70, will retire from the Reynoldsburg Visitors Bureau Jan. 31.

Started in 1989, the bureau gets most of its funding -- about $75,000 a year -- from a portion of Reynoldsburg's hotel "bed tax" revenue.

"I've been the one and only employee ever since," Hudson said. "We've always been one of the smallest -- around the state, the majority are county bureaus. Franklin County is one of the few areas where so many municipalities have their own visitors bureau.

"Our job was to take our story and tell about Reynoldsburg -- if you're filling those (hotel) beds, they're not local people, so we want to tell them about our community."

Hudson started by promoting the city throughout the state at events such as the Ohio State Fair and the 1992 Ameriflora.

"We had our own tent there for an entire week," she said of the horticultural exhibition held at the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the voyage of Christopher Columbus.

Breakfast and fitness events -- like an inline roller skating race the bureau hosted in the mid-1990s at the height of the sport's popularity -- were often trial-and-error presentations, she said.

"Oftentimes, people would call up and say, 'Do you want something else to do?' It just all seemed like part of doing the job -- promoting the city wherever we could," Hudson said. "People think it's just fluff stuff, but you have to know who in town you can rely on, who you can trust. It's all about people and networking.

"The visitors bureau became like the information center and that's what I enjoyed the most."

The bureau was instrumental in getting the first "Welcome to Reynoldsburg" sign installed at the five-way intersection where state Route 256 meets Graham Road, Livingston Avenue and Slate Ridge Boulevard.

"It was made by kids at the vocational school. Since then, the city has purchased the land and put up a more official sign," Hudson said. "We just thought it made sense -- we're the last one you see as you're heading east and the first one you see when you're heading west."

Promoting the annual Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival, the Livingston House and other area attractions was all part of being "cheerleaders" for the city, she said. The bureau also produces and distributes the Reynoldsburg Visitors Guide, a restaurant guide and an annual community calendar.

Hudson said she is most proud of the events such as Christmas on the Towne and the annual July 4 parade that were started by the visitors bureau that have since been taken over by other organizations.

Les Somogyi,72, who volunteered to help start the bureau with Hudson in 1989, will take over as its new executive director Feb. 1.

"I just want to keep her flame going," he said. "She has done an incredible job in 30 years at promoting the city and tourism and there is really not much I can improve on other than to keep that light going.

"Mary's leadership is unparalleled. She's respected in the entire city and she's one of the most important doers in the city," Somogyi said. "She's not just a talker -- she is a doer. She gets it done with such class and finesse and people like that are very difficult to find."

Hudson and her husband, Dick, moved to Powell last year to be closer to their grandchildren but she is never far from the city she called home for 46 years.

She serves on the board of the Reynoldsburg Community Association and is the 2019 chairwoman of the Reynoldsburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

A "proud Rotarian," she said she still will be at the weekly meetings of the Reynoldsburg-Pickerington Rotary Club, something she has done for the better part of 24 years.

"I just want to say thank you so much for helping us get where we are over the last 30 years. There are so many people that have always been behind the scenes and helped with whatever I ask," Hudson said. "I am retiring from the visitors bureau but I'm going to wean myself. I think what's making it easier is that I'm still going to be around -- I'm not saying goodbye."

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"People think it's just fluff stuff, but you have to know who in town you can rely on, who you can trust. It's all about people and networking. The visitors bureau became like the information center and that's what I enjoyed the most."

-- MARY HUDSON

Retiring executive director,

Reynoldsburg Visitors Bureau