Judy Newman is remembered for putting Rowan County on the map – Reuters

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SALISBURY — Greta Lint was still looking forward to her weekly phone call with Judy Newman.

Every Friday at 5 p.m., either Lint or Newman would call the other and they would spend the next few minutes talking about sightseeing.

At the time, Lint worked at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro and the Greensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau. Newman was executive director of the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority.

Lint was pushing for Randolph County to start its own Tourism Development Authority, and she found a helpful ally in Newman, who was at the forefront of using tourism as an economic engine.

“We would have our own phone call to talk about the week – what issues did you have? What successes would you have this week? Lin said.

After a while, their conversations turned to more informal matters.

“Of course, we always liked chatting about people and talking about our gardens because she was an avid gardener and so was I,” Lint said.

Newman was like that – the ultimate professional and also a friend.

Newman died Thursday at the age of 74. She will be remembered by many in Salisbury and County Rowan for the impactful manner in which she promoted the county’s history and attractions and for setting the stage for what is today. county tourism industry.

“She really put us on the map,” said Kaye Hirst, former director of the Rowan Museum who worked closely with Newman for many years.

Newman was born in Salisbury in 1947. She graduated from high school in Texas and studied at Texas Tech University before returning to her hometown and earning a business administration degree from Catawba College.

In 1989 Newman was hired as the first executive director of the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority. When she started working, the travel industry was not viewed with the same importance as it is today.

“Tourism in the ’80s was considered a four-letter word,” Lint said.

James Meacham, now executive director of the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority, describes Newman as one of the “early pioneers” of the importance of tourism in small communities. Targeting day-trippers and overnight passers-by in the pre-digital era, Newman was quick to obtain information about Rowan County from local, national and regional travel publications.

“She was really smart about identifying where people were getting travel information,” Meacham said.

Newman didn’t try to compete with the mountains or the beaches, Meacham said. Instead, she sought to differentiate Rowan County and highlight what it offered that other places didn’t.

Newman strengthened the county’s external brand, but it also sought to strengthen ties between local attractions. Hirst remembers how Newman brought together such features as the NC Transportation Museum, the Village of Gold Hill, downtown Salisbury, Inc., and the Rockwell Museum.

“All the tourist attractions were coming together with her, kind of having round tables and really doing it,” Hirst said.

Often, Newman would start meetings by coming up with a new tactic that she thought might help attract more visitors.

“She had this sparkle in her eye and she was like, ‘Why don’t we try this? Or, “Let’s do it,” Hirst said.

Newman was never afraid to experiment. Under his guidance, Tourism put the F&M Trolleys under his care and turned the scheme into a successful business hiring trolleys for private events and using them to provide weekly historic tours of Salisbury town centre.

Meacham said Newman was instrumental in moving tourism from the Salisbury Railroad Depot to the Paul E. Fisher Gateway building, a building the organization now owns. It was also Newman who led the charge in partnering with the county to create the Tourism Development Authority as the independent public authority it is today.

Everything Newman has accomplished in local tourism has been achieved on a limited budget that was about half of what it is today.

“Everyone around us was getting more and Judy recognized that,” said Bill Burgin, who served on the county tourist board for several years. “It was like fighting with one hand tied around your back.”

That didn’t stop Newman.

“She really made the most of everything we had and put in hours of her time outside of work,” said Lesley Pullium, who was Newman’s right-hand man at the Tourism Development Authority for more than 20 years. a decade.

The strong tourism base established by Newman prompted Meacham to apply for the position when Newman announced his retirement. Meacham met Newman in the late 1990s when he was starting out in tourism and considered her a mentor.

“If she hadn’t done the work, we wouldn’t have this success today,” Meacham said.

Newman’s insight and passion for promoting Rowan County earned him leadership positions at the state level. She served terms as president of what was then the North Carolina Association of Convention and Visitors Bureau, a Charlotte-based organization dedicated to making the state a destination for travelers.

“She was so well known and respected in the tourism industry in North Carolina, but also in South Carolina and Virginia,” Pullium said.

Through his work at the state level, Newman has helped tourism entities across North Carolina become more successful. Lint certainly credits Newman for her role in promoting industry in Randolph County.

“Judy and several other tourism leaders have been working behind the scenes to help the Randolph County Tourism Authority get started,” Lint said.

Meacham said it was inspiring to see a representative from Rowan County sit on a state organization instead of someone from big cities such as Raleigh, Asheville or Charlotte.

Newman’s contributions to tourism will not be forgotten, and neither will his friendship. Hirst still laughs when she thinks back to Newman’s love of Peeps, the marshmallow candy most associated with Easter. They both enjoyed the sweet treat and rushed to find them when they hit the shelves for the holidays.

“Her and I would try to find the first look for every party and fight,” Hirst said.

Newman was good at the game.

“I would come into my office sometimes and she would sneak in when I wasn’t there,” Hirst said. “I think, damn it, she won this time.”

Even after Newman’s retirement, she remained involved. Newman was there to provide mentorship to Meacham as he took over as executive director. She was also an active member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and volunteered with local nonprofit organizations such as Rowan Helping Ministries.

“On a personal level, he was a really good person,” Pullium said. “She loved her family, her church and her community and she was a real asset to everyone.”

Hirst often saw her walking her beloved Jack Russell terriers, Miss T and Spec, around Salisbury, the place she worked so hard to put on the map.

Newman is survived by her husband, Harold “Hank” Newman III, her daughter, Travis Elizabeth Brady, her husband, David Spencer Grose, and their daughter, Julia Grier Grose, among many other family members.

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