After a career in pharmaceutical sales, Rhodes headed up the Etowah Education Foundation during a period of growth for the local scholarship program.
With two young daughters and a love for the outdoors, Rhodes tackles life with a sense of adventure and optimism. While Rhodes helps brides, corporations, nonprofits and families in preparation for weddings, conferences and galas, she now gets to look forward to her own wedding this fall.
In her role as director of the Clarence Brown Conference Center, Rhodes plays an integral part in the tourism and hospitality sector of the local economy and takes pride in working hand in hand with the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Name: Melissa Rhodes
Occupation/Title: Director of the Clarence Brown Conference Center
City of residence: Cartersville, Ga.
Family: Single mom of two children, but engaged and getting married in the fall. Caroline, 14, is going to Woodland High School in the fall and Grace, 11, is going into middle school at Excel Christian Academy.
Education: Undergraduate in Education from Kennesaw State University, Master’s Degree in Business from Brenau.
Age: Old!!!! July 4 is my birthday and I will be even older. Maybe I should ride in the parade this year to celebrate? I am 50!!!
What led you to your current position at the Clarence Brown Conference Center?
A: I drove by the construction site and watched the progress and every time I drove by I thought, “How exciting for our community to finally have a great venue for conferences, weddings, concerts, etc.” I thought about how fun it would be to work with the Convention and Visitors Bureau and learn about tourism, promote the county I love and learn the hospitality business. I didn’t think I had a chance at the position but then I sat down and wrote out all my “hospitality” experience. I worked in pharmaceuticals for 18 years and conducted speaking events and worked trade shows around the country. As the executive director for the Etowah Foundation, I had experience in fund raising and organizing events such as the Tailgate Party and the Purse Auction. I also helped remodel, finance and open Moore’s Market here in Cartersville. So, armed with my education, work experience and enthusiasm, I decided to go for it and here I am!!!
In what ways have you seen the conference center’s impact on the community?
A: We have hosted more than 80,000 guests in 2012 and 2013 generating more than $2.8 million in economic impact for the county. Sixty percent of guests were from outside of Cartersville. We estimate more than 3,000 room nights in local hotels in 2012. The center generated a minimum of $57,067 for local caterers and security personnel in 2012.
Construction has already begun on an expansion at the conference center. How will this improve the facility’s service to clients and guests?
A: The expansion is a storage room and additional parking. I know that doesn’t sound exciting, but we desperately need additional space for all the tables, chairs, decorations, staging, dance floors, audio visual equipment and other items that we offer to our guest.
What would you consider your greatest personal or professional achievement?
A: My greatest achievement would have to be my role as a mother. Juggling career and motherhood is a real challenge. I pray that they grow up to be happy, well-balanced women despite having me for a mom.
What makes Bartow County special?
A: I was an Army brat as a child and moved around with my career before moving back to Cartersville. I love Bartow County for so many reasons. The proximity to Atlanta, the small-town feel with the sophistication of museums and a charming downtown make this a great place to live and raise kids. We are a very welcoming community that offers a lot of community volunteer opportunities and a variety of nonprofits that add to the quality of life here.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
A: Besides my mom saying “suck your stomach in” … it would have to be to live in the moment. Let go of the past and don’t fret about the future because today is all you are given.
What would most people be surprised to learn about you?
A: That I am a tomboy. I love to camp, hike, fish, chew tobacco (just kidding). My dream vacation is a rafting/canoe, hiking, camping trip from Yellowstone to the Tetons.
Where is your favorite place to be in Bartow County?
A: My house. Sitting on my screened porch eating dinner with my family. I have Christmas lights strung around it and a big farm table with lots of candles.
What are three words you would use to describe yourself?
A: Energetic, down-to-earth, lighthearted. I love to laugh. Especially at myself. That’s more than three words.
If you were not in this line of work, what would you like to do?
A: A Reality show personality? I think raising kids and dealing with the public on a daily basis would make a great reality show. Watch out June and Honey Boo Boo here comes the staff of the CBCC.