Emory Lencke has announced his official retirement as the executive director of Visit Hendricks County with mixed emotions.
Visit Hendricks County is the Hendricks County Tourism Commission which attracts visitors to the county by promoting and developing tourism. Lencke has been the executive director of the commission for the past 12 years.
“There’s always mixed emotions when you make a decision like this,” Lencke said. “I’ve been dealing with health issues since August and it has been a real challenge. It’s helped this decision to come quicker.”
Lencke went to the doctor on Aug. 9 and got home on Nov. 12 after time in the hospital and rehab center.
“I’ve been fighting some tough issues but I don’t think there has been a 24 hour span since then where I didn’t hear from somebody somewhere in Indiana,” he said. “I’ve had so many cards, notes, and prayers come my way. It blew me away.”
He said his difficulty in getting back to work helped him make the decision to retire.
“But I’m not one of those people who is going to disappear,” he said. “I’ve been working with people for more than 50 years and love the Hendricks County community.”
Lencke has lived in Hendricks County since 1969 when he married his wife. He lost her two years ago.
“I have some ideas for things that might be beneficial to the community,” he said. “I’m going to see what’s out there and continue to put my two cents in to make Hendricks County a better place to live.
“But I owe more time to these grandbabies. I have three more grandsons born this year — twins in January and another little boy in March. I want to give them more time as a grandpa and maybe a substitute grandma.”
Lencke has six grandchildren and will be spending more time with family.
He leaves an impressive legacy at Visit Hendricks County. Lencke was able to lead Hendricks County into a period of unprecedented tourism growth by increasing innkeeper’s tax revenues resulting in visitor spending rising to more than $219 million annually (Certec Inc., 2011).
“It truly became a way of life for me,” Lencke said. “I often joke that I was paid money to see smiles on visitor’s faces as they enjoyed our wonderful attractions. But the best part has been the number of people I’ve worked with over the years who truly care about this community including our tourism industry partners, our great staff and everyone who has served on the Tourism Commission.”
In 2005, Lencke spearheaded an effort to increase tax collections from 5 to 8 percent per room, which allows Hendricks County to share the innkeeper’s tax collections with the county to be used for the development of a county park, a county fairgrounds or a county promotion. That increased tax has raised more than $2 million in additional revenue that has been utilized by the Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds and the Hendricks County Parks & Recreation Department.
With the additional revenue, Lencke also secured 18 acres of land in Plainfield for further tourism development. This land remains in the ownership of the Hendricks County Tourism Commission, and the group continues to work to develop this property into a viable tourism product, such as a conference center.
“We’ve been fortunate to have had such a wonderful leader for tourism not only in our county, but across the state these past several years,” said Lance Angle, President-Elect of the Hendricks County Tourism Commission. “Emory certainly did great things for not only the Commission, but our entire community has benefited from his tenure in ways beyond measure.”
Lencke’s retirement will be effective Dec. 31, but he will serve in a consulting role through January to assist with the transition. Jaime Bohler Smith will continue to serve as the interim executive director during the transition, having previously served as the associate director since 2002.
Lencke said he is leaving the organization in great hands.
“It’s time for a changing of the guard,” he said. “We have a wonder staff and a great leader in Jaime. She’s worked hard during this transition to make it an efficient and comfortable one. They are an awesome group of people and I’m going to miss them.”
For more information about Visit Hendricks County, visit the website at TourHendricksCounty.com or call 718-8750.