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Ballint congratulated for tourism work | News, Sports, Jobs


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Outgoing Belmont County Tourism Council Director Barb Ballint, left, looks forward to enjoying her retirement. New Director Jackie Pugh looks forward to building on Ballint’s foundation.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Members of Belmont County area organizations and agencies gave their best wishes to Barb Ballint, retiring Belmont County Tourism Council director, at the Tourism Office at the Ohio Valley Mall on Friday.

“I’m excited about the retirement, excited about being able to spend more time with family, and I’m really excited about the future of the office,” Ballint said. “With the new executive director, it’s going to continue to move forward into good places.”

Ballint became emotional at times as she spoke with stakeholders and agency leaders. During her time helming the tourism office, Ballint was active in coordinating and facilitating communication with different entities.

“If I did have a positive impact on the people of the communities and the organizations, they also had a great impact on my life also. There’s so many wonderful people in Belmont County that volunteer so much time to their organizations, and they’ve inspired me to do the job that I’ve done,” she said. “Our mission is to promote everything Belmont County, and some of our promotions have been highlighted at the state level with state organization such as the Ohio Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus and the Ohio Travel Association and just being recognized by your peers outside the county at a state level was a very proud moment for myself and my staff.”

During the height of COVID-19 cases last year, she also worked on spreading the word about Belmont County’s attractions using social media and other innovations.

“We have definitely risen to the occasion,” Ballint said.

New tourism Director Jackie Pugh wished Ballint well and said she has been an invaluable resource.

“I’ve been very blessed that our board of directors allowed us to have about a two-month overlap. I’ve trained with Barb since the middle of October. It’s really been an amazing experience to try to absorb all the information she knows about the tourism office and everything she’s done here over the last seven years,” Pugh said. “We’ve done meet-and-greets with all the different stakeholders in the county that she works with and introduced to building and forming those connections on my own with all the people and events around here.

“She has laid an amazing foundation here in the tourism office, and I’m very excited about taking the next steps in the things we can do, building on our social media, building on our digital advertising and really reaching the right demographics with the messaging we want to get so that we can spread the word about all the events happening here in Belmont County,” Pugh said.

She is looking forward to the upcoming Blame My Roots Festival in July.

“It’ll be a little bit quiet until the springtime, and that’s really when all our events will be hitting,” Pugh said. “All the stakeholders that run events in the county, that run the museums, that bring together the heritage and all that we have to offer here in Belmont County.”

Members of the Great Stone Viaduct Society in Bellaire were among the stakeholders who stopped by. Ed Mowrer, a society member as well as manager of the Energy Institute at Belmont College, praised Ballint.

“We really have enjoyed working with Barb over the last several years. She’s been a big supporter of many projects that I’ve been involved with in the county, particularly the Great Stone Viaduct and some of the oil and gas events. … We’re going to miss her, but we’re also looking forward to working with Jackie Pugh, who I’ve known for many, many years. … I see this as a seamless transition from one role to another for tourism.”

Pugh added that she looks forward to also working with Dean David Rohall from Ohio University Eastern to mark the 152nd anniversary of the Great Western Schoolhouse in June. The one-room structure is part of the OUE campus.

“We’ve always had a good relationship with this office, specifically Barb and her work,” Rohall said. “She’s always reached out to us and used us as a resource, and that’s exactly what this campus is supposed to be. While I’ll miss her, we also know that she shared a lot of her experience with the office and we’re going to continue some of the work that she started in the future.”

“Barb has done a great job over the years and really brought the community together, a lot of the different entities with her efforts, and just done a tremendous job at doing tourism and full community development. Barb knows the value of that,” Port Authority Director Larry Merry said. “With all the communities working together, she’s worked hard to combine everybody’s efforts. … When you have I-70 and the different amenities that Belmont County has at its disposal, tourism will always be a big part of the economic picture of Eastern Ohio.”

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